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South Sudan Wants Two Weeks to Review Peace Deal


South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar, center-left with back to camera, shakes hands with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, center-right wearing a black hat, after lengthy peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aug. 17, 2015.

South Sudan's government says it needs two more weeks to consider a proposed peace deal with rebels that President Salva Kiir has refused to sign.

Government Information Minister Michael Makuei said on Tuesday that officials will consult with the people of South Sudan on whether the document should be signed.

Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the government will begin talks on Wednesday with non-governmental groups, political parties and other stakeholders to determine how to best move the peace process forward. He said Kiir refused to sign the deal because mediators did not update the document with recommended changes.

Rebel leader Riek Machar signed the deal in Addis Ababa on Monday, hours before a deadline set by the East African bloc IGAD. The deal is aimed at ending a 20-month civil war that has displaced more than 2 million people.

President Kiir came under strong pressure Tuesday to sign the deal.

The United States said it is "deeply disappointed" that South Sudan's government "squandered the opportunity to bring peace to their people by refusing to sign the agreement." In a statement, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said talks on U.N. Security Council sanctions will move ahead if the government fails to sign the deal within 15 days and a cease-fire is not implemented properly.

Britain's foreign office said further delay in signing the deal "is completely unacceptable. " In Juba, opposition parties that are not with the rebels called on the government to sign the deal "as soon as possible."

The U.N. Security Council and the United States have threatened sanctions against any party in South Sudan that prolongs the war.

At his news conference, Makuei said the government objects to provisions on power-sharing and demilitarization in the document.

He said officials will find out what people want in the next two weeks. "But for us, as a government and a government of the people, we strongly believe that this document cannot serve the people of South Sudan. It is a sell out and we will not accept that."

On the government's Twitter account Monday, Kiir said, "Peace that cannot be sustained cannot be signed."

South Sudan's civil war erupted in December 2013 following a political dispute between President Kiir and Machar, his former deputy.

The United Nations says the war has since displaced more than 2.2 million people - 1.5 million internally and 730,000 to neighboring countries. The U.N. mission in the country says it is sheltering nearly 200,000 civilians on its bases.

VOA's Peter Clottey contributed to this report.