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US calls for 'unconditional' Sudan talks with rebels

An SPLM-N rebel soldier looks out toward Talodi, in South Kordofan, Sudan, on April 25, 2012
A Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebel soldier looks out toward Talodi, in South Kordofan, Sudan, on April 25, 2012. Top representatives of the the SPLM-N have been in Washington and New York in the past week and have met US officials a

The United States called on Sudan to hold "unconditional" talks with rebels battling government forces in two strife-torn states where the UN says thousands are close to starvation.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Khartoum must negotiate with rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states as part of moves to achieve "real security."

Top representatives of the the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have been in Washington and New York in the past week and have met US officials and British envoys at the UN, diplomats said.

Rice also attacked Sudan for failing to carry out accords with neighboring South Sudan to end disputes over oil resources and the disputed territory of Abyei.

"Real security will only come if Sudan bolsters its cooperation with South Sudan and addresses the conflict in the two areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) through unconditional dialogue with the SPLM-North," Rice said.

The SPLM-N took up arms against the Sudan government in the weeks before South Sudan made its formal break from the north in July 2011.

More than 220,000 people have since fled into South Sudan and Ethiopia from the two states and the Sudan government has refused to let the United Nations enter rebel zones in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The United Nations says about 700,000 people face critical food shortages in the two states.

Rice said "it is crucial that there is outspoken support in the region for a cessation of hostilities and international humanitarian access" to South Kordofan and Blue Nile. This should have been given under an accord with the UN and African Union.

The US ambassador said Sudan must also end restrictions on UN access to Darfur, the western region where a decade-old conflict has left more than 300,000 dead, according to UN figures, and where violence is flaring again.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir are scheduled to meet in Addis Ababa on Friday in a new bid to revive oil, security and border deals.

Tensions between the two have been exacerbated by Sudan's accusations that the South backs the SPLM-N. South Sudan says Khartoum is attacking it directly and backing insurgents on its territory.

It will be the second time this month the two sides have held talks mediated by the African Union, which is to hold a summit from Sunday at which the conflicts are expected to be a major topic.

The two Sudans are at loggerheads over the territory of Abyei, which was left undecided when they split. They are also in a dispute over revenues from oil that comes mainly from the south but is transported through Sudan.

The two presidents signed an accord in September 2012 to pave the way for renewed oil production.

But Rice said "Sudan's refusal to implement the September 27 agreements is counterproductive -- blocking the very measures intended to guarantee the transparency and security of the border and denying both countries the oil revenue they badly need."

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