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East Africa leaders push South Sudan peace

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East African leaders met Thursday in Ethiopia to push warring South Sudanese rivals to end almost 11 months of conflict, amid renewed threats of UN sanctions.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir will later meet with rebel chief Riek Machar alongside the regional leaders, a spokesman in Kiir’s office, Ateny Wek Ateny, told AFP.

It follows UN Security Council warnings this week that there is “considerable interest” in sanctions and an arms embargo, to stem violence in the world’s youngest nation that has left thousands killed and forced almost two million from their homes.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is attending the summit along with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, said leaders would discuss how “remaining barriers to the South Sudan peace process can be resolved.”

The leaders are members of east Africa’s IGAD bloc, which is mediating currently stalled talks.

War broke out in December, when Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of trying to stage a coup, with the violence broadening into an ethnic conflict, and now includes more than 20 different armed groups.

Kiir and rebel chief Machar met last month in Tanzania, shaking hands and accepting mutual responsibility for the war, which has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities by both sides. There has since been fierce fighting in several areas.

It was their first meeting since they signed a ceasefire in August, which, like three previous agreements, swiftly collapsed.

Regional nations including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have had to cope with 467,000 refugees who have fled the war.

Uganda has also sent in troops to back Kiir’s forces, while Ethiopia and Kenya have sent troops to bolster the UN peacekeeping mission.

Internally displaced South Sudanese women return to the flooded UNMISS compound in Bentiu on October 10, 2014 after a meeting with the UN representative

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