Dec. 28 - South Sudan says it is ready for a ceasefire and would release eight of 11 senior politicians arrested over an alleged coup plot, raising hopes it was edging towards a deal to end ethnic-based fighting, threatening its vital oil industry. Sarah Toms reports.
East African leaders welcome the South Sudan government's agreement to an immediate ceasefire after nearly two weeks of fighting. They'd gathered here in Kenya for crisis talks after reports that more than two thousand people died in the world's newest nation. The fighting -- split along ethnic and political lines -- erupted when South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused his former vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar was not at the summit to hear the truce offer or news of the release of eight senior politicians. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ETHIOPIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, TEDROS ADHANOM, SAYING: "Welcomed the commitment by the government of the Republic of South Sudan to an immediate cessation of hostilities and called upon Dr Riek Machar and other parties to make similar commitments. Determined that if hostilities do not cease within four days of this communiqué the summit will consider taking further measures." It's not known what those further measures would be but African leaders said they would not accept a violent overthrow of the government. But despite the truce, fighting continued in the oil producing Upper Nile State. Both the rebels and the government claim to have control. But South Sudan's Information Minister says the country's vital oil industry is safe. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOUTH SUDAN INFORMATION MINISTER, MICHAEL MAKUEI , SAYING: oil fields of Unity state are partially closed because of the presence of the rebels in those areas and the killing of personnel in the oil fields. So that has affected in a way or the other the flow of the oil in the Unity state." Now everyone must wait to see if the fighting will stop and the talks begin within the next four days.