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South Sudan rebel leader says cease-fire and peace agreement in danger from persistent clashes

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — South Sudan's rebel leader is warning attacks by government troops on rebel-held areas could sabotage a peace agreement between the warring sides.

Riek Machar told reporters in Ethiopia Monday that he is concerned the government is not respecting the cease-fire.

"The cease-fire has not been respected by the government since it was declared and this is because they still are on the offensive," Machar said. "If this situation goes on, it means the peace agreement is not implementable. And if a peace agreement is not implementable, then it is just a paper."

Both sides agreed to a cease-fire that took effect Sunday, but there are reported violations in the volatile states of Upper Nile and Unity.

Machar accused government troops of attacking despite the cease-fire and urged President Salva Kiir's government to control its troops. For its part, South Sudan's military also accuses the rebels of attacking and breaking the cease-fire.

It is not possible to independently verify the alleged violations.

The U.S. has threatened U.N. sanctions against those who violate the pact, which was mediated by regional leaders and is backed by the international community.

Machar, who is now based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, was Kiir's deputy president until his dismissal in July 2013 set off a political crisis that later boiled over into armed rebellion. Fighting has persisted since December 2013.

Machar is expected to eventually return to Juba, the capital, as Kiir's deputy, and national elections will be held in 2018 at the earliest, according to the terms of the peace deal.

Before signing the pact last Wednesday, Kiir cited several reservations and called the agreement flawed.

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