JUBA - South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday urged rebel chief Riek Machar to restart talks to end a raging civil war between their forces that has driven the country to the brink of famine.
"Even if Riek Machar's forces still continue attacking our forces, I still renew my call for him to accept the logic of peaceful resolution," Kiir told crowds at celebrations to mark three years of independence.
"Put down your guns and come home."
South Sudan has been wracked by war since mid-December, when presidential guards loyal to Kiir clashed with troops supporting Machar, who fled to the bush and rallied a huge rebel army.
The fighting has been marked by widespread atrocities against both members of the Nuer people, to which Machar belongs, and Kiir's Dinka group, the single largest tribe.
Three ceasefire deals have failed to stick, and peace talks in luxury hotels in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa have made little progress.
Last month they halted indefinitely, with both sides refusing to attend the discussions, and blaming each other for the failure.
"If we don't stop war many of our people will continue to die," Kiir said, while insisting he was "still committed" to the talks.
Aid agencies have warned that without massive funding, famine zones will be declared within weeks.
Machar, speaking in the Ethiopian capital, said he was willing to resume talks.
"We are here seeking a peaceful solution to this problem... we are here ready to talk," he told reporters.
But he also lashed out at the "tyranny" of Kiir's government, and calling for sanctions on the leaders in Juba.
Under Kiir, "our country witnessed nothing but dictatorship, anarchy, corruption, tribalism and lack of development," Machar said.
Kiir also thanked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who sent troops into South Sudan to prop up the government.
"Will not order the Uganda forces to leave South Sudan until I am sure that we are safe and our institutions are protected," Kiir told Museveni, who attended the celebrations.
The withdrawal of Ugandan troops has previously been a key demand of Machar for talks to progress.
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S.Sudan president urges rebel chief to resume peace talks