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US chides both sides in South Sudan conflict, urges talks

National security adviser Susan Rice speaks as President Obama looks on during a event in the Rose Garden at the White House June 5, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The United States criticized both sides in the South Sudan conflict late Thursday, chiding the country's president for not releasing detainees and the rebel leader for unreasonable preconditions to talks.

Rebel leader Riek Machar's insistence on the release of detainees before negotiations begin "is unacceptable and runs counter to the express will of the detainees," said National Security Advisor Susan Rice late Thursday.

At the same time, she said the US was "disappointed" that President Salva Kiir had not yet released the detainees.

Talks to solve the conflict appeared to stall in Addis Ababa, with no direct contact between the two negotiating teams as the government continued to reject the rebel demand that 11 Machar allies be released from prison.

Kiir accuses the detainees of plotting with Machar to overthrow him. The Machar camp denies planning a coup, while accusing Kiir of favouring his ethnic group, the Dinkas, at the expense of Machar’s Nuers.

The US statement called upon both men "to sign immediately the cessation of hostilities agreement" put forth by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediators.
 

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