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South Sudan peace talks delayed as officials cite need for an agenda

  • e026ca876f96e000470f6a7067005c8d.jpg

    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, displaced people walk to find an unoccupied patch of ground where they can rest after arriving by river barge from Bor, some of the thousands who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

  • 027917546f96e000470f6a706700e495.jpg

    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, displaced people arrive by river barge from Bor, some of the thousands who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

  • f9ad7bed6f56de00470f6a706700b567.jpg

    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, people displaced by the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor, queue for medical care at a clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) set up in a school building in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

  • 0b2632e06f98e000470f6a7067002efb.jpg

    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, a man unloads food assistance supplied by the international Red Cross which arrived in the morning by truck to help the thousands who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

  • b86e5f126f98e000470f6a706700651f.jpg

    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, a girl waits outside a clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) set up in a school building in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

An African official who is working to organize peace talks between warring parties in South Sudan says that direct talks between the sides have been delayed.

Mahboub M. Maalim, the executive secretary of an East African bloc of states known as IGAD, said Saturday the talks have been delayed in part because no agenda has yet been set. Officials had hoped direct peace talks would begin Saturday after preliminary talks were held on Friday.

Violence has spiraled across South Sudan since Dec. 15. President Salva Kiir accuses the former vice president, Riek Machar, of an attempted coup. Machar denies the accusation, but forces loyal to him now control two state capitals, including the town of Bor, about 120 kilometers (70 miles) north of the country capital, Juba.