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South Sudan Peace Talks Due to Begin in Ethiopia

Talks to end the fighting in South Sudan are due to begin Thursday, as a rising number of civilians flee their homes.

The United Nations refugee agency says more than 200,000 people have been displaced within South Sudan since political and ethnic violence erupted in mid-December.

Spokesman Daniel MacIsaac tells VOA that more than 10,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries.

Delegates for South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have gathered in Ethiopia's capital for peace talks. Rebel delegates say the talks will start Thursday evening.

The East African bloc IGAD is brokering the talks, hoping to violence that has left more than 1,000 people dead.

There were renewed clashes Wednesday between government troops and forces loyal to Machar in Bor, the capital of South Sudan's Jonglei state. In a Twitter message, the government said its forces had partially withdrawn from Bor, but there still was fighting in the suburbs.

President Kiir declared a state of emergency in Jonglei state, as well as the oil-producing Unity state, which has been one of the other main sites of the fighting.

The bloodshed in the world's newest country erupted when renegade soldiers attacked an army headquarters December 15. President Kiir accused former vice president Machar of a coup attempt.

Machar told VOA Wednesday that President Kiir was responsible for much of the unrest, and peace can not be achieved under Mr. Kiir's leadership.

"He has disunited the country. There is a massacre in Juba, 'ethnic cleansing' in Juba. I don't think Salva Kiir can unite the people anymore."

Machar said South Sudan's citizens should join him in a bid to force the president to step down, if he does not do so voluntarily.

Witnesses say some of the violence is ethnically motivated, with supporters of Mr. Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and supporters of Machar, from the Nuer tribe, targeting each other because of their background.

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