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South Sudan opposition welcomes president's call for national dialogue

In this July 25, 2016 photo, a United Nations armored personnel carrier stands in a camp for the internally displaced in Juba, South Sudan. (Photo by AP)

South Sudan's opposition has welcomed President Salva Kiir's call for "national dialogue" to put an end to three years of civil war.

Former Vice President Riek Machar's SPLM/A IO party "welcomed the national dialogue as a way of achieving peace, but it must not be led by President Salva Kiir," party spokesman Nyarji Roman said in a statement on Friday.

On Wednesday, Kiir called for a "national dialogue" open to all, asking for forgiveness "for any mistakes I might have committed."

The president said the initiative aims to "save the country from disintegration."

In this July 9, 2015 photo, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, accompanied by the army's chief of staff, Paul Malong, right, waves during the independence day ceremony in the capital, Juba. (Photo by AP)

A bloody civil war in South Sudan began on December 15, 2013, when Kiir accused his former deputy, Machar, of plotting a coup against him. The two parties then got involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines.

Tens of thousands were killed in the war and over three million were forced from homes.

South Sudan has witnessed a new wave of conflict since July 8, when gunfire erupted near the state house in Juba as Kiir and Machar were holding a meeting. More than 300 people were killed in the clashes.

Machar, who fled the country after the clashes, called for war against the government on September 25, ending an internationally-backed peace deal. The ex-vice president is currently in exile in South Africa.

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