UN diplomat: South Sudan leaders given more time before possible sanctions

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — South Sudan's warring factions have been given more time by the U.N. Security Council and the African Union to finalize a peace deal before possible sanctions, a U.N. diplomat said Thursday.

The announcement was made by Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins, Angola's ambassador to the U.N.

"It takes time to resolve problems which are not simple," said Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins, who was the co-chairman of the AU-Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa. "It also takes time to bring leaders together and create cohesion."

It wasn't immediately clear how much more time they will have to negotiate. Last week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a system to impose sanctions on those blocking peace in South Sudan.

Earlier, South Sudan's information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, said the government is eager to reach a peace agreement. He said sanctions wouldn't "inspire us to deliberate, discuss and compromise."

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar had been given a March 5 deadline, which was extended by a day, to finalize issues including power sharing. But the two sides haven't been able to come to an agreement.

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 when political divisions between Kiir and his former deputy, Machar, spilled into widespread violence.

Tens of thousands have been killed, and nearly 2 million people displaced, prompting the world's largest single-country humanitarian effort to assist civilians facing hunger and disease, according to the United Nations.

Aid workers, hospitals, and relief food centers have come under attack from both sides during the war. Thirteen aid workers had been killed, according to a tally by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, when she visited South Sudan last week.

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