The leaders of north and south Sudan are set to meet in Ethiopia to discuss crucial unresolved issues as the south prepares to declare its independence on Saturday.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir are attending the talks Monday in Addis Ababa, as the two sides work to find solutions on resource sharing, disputed border areas and citizenship.
The meeting comes amid weeks of fighting in the volatile Southern Kordofan state and neighboring Abyei, which has led to a mass exodus of people and raised fears of a new Sudanese civil war.
Mr. Bashir has said he ordered his northern army to keep fighting in Southern Kordofan for as long as rebels are operating there.
Officials with southern Sudan's army said Sunday the fighting could spread into other border states, from Blue Nile to Darfur, unless a cease-fire is implemented.
North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended with a 2005 peace deal. South Sudan voted to split from the north in a referendum in January.