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S.Sudan rebel leader says ready for talks with president

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 | 11:44 AM ET

JUBA, Dec 23 (Reuters) - The leader of a rebellion against South Sudan's government told Reuters on Monday that he was ready for dialogue to end the conflict and said President Salva Kiir must first release his detained political allies.

After speaking with African and other mediators, former Vice President Riek Machar said by phone: "My message was let Salva Kiir release my comrades who are under detention and let them be evacuated to Addis Ababa and we can start dialogue straight away, because these are the people who would (handle) dialogue."

He also said he controlled oil fields in Unity and Upper Nile states in Africa's newest nation and did not want to halt production, saying funds from pumping oil should be deposited in an escrow account so South Sudan did not lose revenues due to the fighting.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic and Edmund Blair; Editing by Louise Ireland)