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South Sudan's Government Commits to Ceasefire

An African regional bloc says South Sudan's government has agreed to a cease-fire, a move that could help end inter-ethnic fighting that has left more than 1,000 people dead this month.

The Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) announced the decision at the end of a Friday summit in Nairobi. The group urged supporters of President Salva Kiir's former deputy, Riek Machar, to make the same commitment.

Fighting broke out in South Sudan earlier this month, after President Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup.

Machar says the violence was the result of a purge of Mr. Kiir's political rivals.

The violence quickly took on an ethnic dimension, with members of President Kiir's Dinka ethnic group fighting the Nuer group to which Machar belongs.

During Friday's summit, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called on both sides to seek compromise.

"We have a very small window of opportunity to secure peace which we urge all stakeholders to seize, including Riek Machar."

Mr. Kenyatta says the violence could threaten regional stability.

"If the present violence continues, and the violence on the ground leads to atrocities against civilians, it will create a global dynamic that will make it much more difficult for South Sudan and the region to reach a solution."

Earlier, President Kiir and Machar both said they were ready for dialogue, but the government rejected Machar's demand that detained opposition leaders be released first.

On Friday, Reuters news said government forces had defeated fighters loyal to Machar in Malakal, the capital of the oil-producing Upper Nile state region.

On Thursday, the U.N. said it hoped to put peacekeeping reinforcements in South Sudan within 48 hours.

U.N. envoy Hilde Johnson stressed the need for "unprecedented speed" to boost the U.N. presence. She said more than 50,000 civilians had sought refuge at U.N. bases in the country since the fighting erupted.

Johnson also urged the country's political leaders to rein in their forces and work for peace.
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