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Originally published Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 9:26 PM

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Myanmar rebels, government to hold talks in China

Myanmar's government and ethnic Kachin rebels in northern Myanmar said Sunday that they would hold talks in China this week after some of the worst fighting in the country in years.

Associated Press

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LAIZA, Myanmar —

Myanmar's government and ethnic Kachin rebels in northern Myanmar said Sunday that they would hold talks in China this week after some of the worst fighting in the country in years.

The talks will begin Monday in the Chinese border town of Ruili, officials on both sides said.

The meeting comes after the army captured several strategic guerrilla-held hilltops this month in the hills around Laiza, which serves as a headquarters for the rebel movement.

The army used fighter jets, helicopter gunships and intense artillery barrages to seize the rebel outposts during its offensive, and there has been speculation that the government launched the assault to strengthen its hand at the negotiating table.

Laiza has been largely quiet since government troops took control of Hka Ya Bhum, the highest hill in the area, on Jan. 26. However, Kachin Independence Army officers have reported at least one brief skirmish in the region as well as clashes elsewhere in Kachin state.

Since the conflict resumed in June 2011 after a 17-year cease-fire, the two sides have held at least 10 rounds of talks to try to end it.

Monday's meeting was confirmed by a Kachin Independence Army officer and a civilian official working with the government's negotiation team. The officials declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The Kachin, like Myanmar's other ethnic minorities, have long sought greater autonomy from the central government. They are the only major ethnic rebel group that has not reached a truce with President Thein Sein's administration, which has been praised by world powers for making political and economic strides toward democratic rule over the last two years.

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Associated Press writer Yadana Htun contributed to this report from Yangon, Myanmar.

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