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South Sudan president to sign peace deal in 'a couple more days,' US says; fighting resumes

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KAMPALA, Uganda — South Sudan President Salva Kiir has assured U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he would sign a peace deal with his rival within days, the State Department said Wednesday, as fighting resumed in parts of the country.

During a telephone call, Kiir assured the top American diplomat that he would sign the deal he refused to sign on Monday after "a couple of more days of consultation," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

"That's obviously encouraging," Kirby told reporters.

Kiir, under international pressure to reach a compromise agreement with rebel leader Riek Machar, had surprised mediators when he refused to sign the peace agreement after days of negotiations, saying he needs more time to consult.

That decision has been condemned by the international community, with the U.S. saying it will pursue new U.N. sanctions as a consequence. The peace deal includes provisions on how to share power with Machar and calls for a demilitarized capital.

Fighting resumed in parts of South Sudan between government troops and rebel forces on Wednesday, a South Sudan military spokesman said.

Now there is fighting in Manyo County in the state of Upper Nile, close to the border with Sudan, with rebels trying to take areas controlled by government troops, said the spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer.

There was also fighting Tuesday in Eastern Equatoria state between the capital, Juba, and the town of Nimule on the border with Uganda. There previously had been no fighting in this area, suggesting the rebels are trying to open a new front, he said.

Aguer accused the rebels of starting the latest round of violence. A rebel spokesman, Maj. Gen. James Chuol, blamed government troops for launching the first attack on Tuesday.

It was not possible to independently verify the various allegations.

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013, when a split within the security forces in Juba escalated into a violent rebellion led by Machar, who commands the loyalty of some senior army officers and soldiers.

Kiir's ethnic Dinka people are pitted against Machar's Nuer.


Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed.

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