South Sudan rivals discuss ceasefire, detainees

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - Peace talks between the South Sudan government and rebels continued in Ethiopia on Tuesday with discussions on a possible ceasefire and the release of prisoners, officials said.

"This morning at nine we met," South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei said, adding that the topics raised were a "cessation of hostilities" and "the question of detainees."

Talks between government and rebels have been slow to get off the ground since delegates arrived at a luxury hotel in Addis Ababa last week.

The talks, brokered by the East African regional bloc IGAD, are aimed at ending more than three weeks of fighting in the world's newest nation. The conflict has left thousands dead and close to 200,000 people displaced.

The fighting erupted on Dec 15, pitting army units loyal to Kiir against a loose alliance of ethnic militia forces and mutinous army commanders nominally headed by Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked last July.

A key sticking point has been rebel and international demands that the South Sudanese government release 11 officials close to Machar so they can participate in the talks.

Makuei said some members of his team have returned to Juba for the day to consult with the government before face-to-face talks resume. He said there will be "no direct negotiations until they come back today."

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