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June 29, 2017

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S. Sudan gov't says it is set to retake key town

JUBA--South Sudan's government said Tuesday that it was poised to recapture a key town from rebel forces, as peace talks being held in neighboring Ethiopia appeared to be making slow progress.

The claim came amid renewed warnings of a fast deteriorating humanitarian situation, with the aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warning that people displaced by the conflict were at risk of epidemics.

"It's a matter of hours that the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) will announce the capture of Bor," a government official told AFP, amid reports that government reinforcements were being poured into the battle near Bor, a state capital situated 200 kilometers (130 miles) north of Juba.

Rebel spokesman Moses Ruai Lat, however, dismissed the claim as "lies": "They are making propaganda. In Jonglei State, we have no problem in the areas we control," he asserted.

Delegates from both side meanwhile held a second day of formal talks at a luxury hotel in Addis Ababa, although a brief morning session was adjourned with members of the government delegation heading back to Juba for "consultations" with President Salva Kiir.

"This morning at nine we met," South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei told AFP, adding that the topics raised were a "cessation of hostilities" and "the question of detainees" loyal to Kiir's rival Riek Machar, a former vice president and nominal rebel leader.

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, according to U.N. officials, while more than 200,000 people have been displaced or have fled the country.

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