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South Sudan Rebel Leader Changes Course, Agrees to Sign Peace Deal

FILE - South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir and South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar are seen after peace talks in Khartoum, Sudan, June 27, 2018.

A Sudanese negotiator says South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar has decided to sign the latest draft of a revitalized peace deal to end the country's devastating five-year old civil war.

Machar had signed the initial draft of a power-sharing deal earlier this month in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. Kiir signed a revised draft of the agreement earlier Tuesday in Khartoum, but Machar refused, due to questions over the number of states and their boundaries. The Kiir administration changed the number of original states in 2015 from 10 to 32.

But just hours later, Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters that Machar had changed his mind and will sign the accord on Thursday after "intense" discussions with Sudanese negotiators.

President Kiir and Machar, his former deputy, have signed several peace deals since fighting broke out in late 2013 as a result of a power struggle between the two, just two years after South Sudan gained independence from neighboring Sudan. Each peace deal has failed, and the fighting has left has left tens of thousands of South Sudanese dead and forced millions of its citizens to flee their homes.

The new pact will see Machar return from exile in South Africa as the first of five vice presidents under a transitional government of national unity.

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