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South Sudan President, Rebel Chief Meet in Addis Ababa

Montage of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (L) and former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar, who held face-to-face talks in Addis Ababa on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2014.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir met for several hours Thursday behind closed doors with rebel leader Riek Machar in Addis Ababa to try to hash out a binding deal to end more than 13 months of conflict in South Sudan.

A spokesman for Mr. Kiir dismissed reports that the face-to-face talks had been delayed after the president reportedly took ill.

"In actual fact, the president is in good health," Kiir spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said. "The president arrived in Ethiopia on the 27th and... even now, as I speak with you, is still in a meeting with Riek Machar."

Machar told VOA after leaving the meeting with Mr. Kiir that issues preventing the two sides from reaching a deal include differences over power distribution in a transitional government, what should be included in a permanent constitution, and the shape of the national legislature.

Meanwhile, a meeting of heads of state of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was postponed until the weekend because of disagreements over how to achieve peace in the world's newest nation. IGAD is the regional bloc that has been trying to broker a South Sudan peace for more than a year.

The IGAD heads of state meeting is now expected to be held on Saturday. Until then, mediators and teams from both sides are expected to hold more meetings to try to find ways to end the fighting in South Sudan that has claimed thousands of lives and forced nearly two million people to flee their homes.