WASHINGTON

South Sudan president signs peace deal with rebel leader

South Sudan’s president has reached a cease-fire agreement with a rebel leader, a U.S. official said Friday, after a vicious cycle of revenge killings drew international alarm.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice welcomed the peace agreement in a statement, saying it “holds the promise of bringing the crisis to an end.”

A cease-fire in January between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar fell apart within days.

Rice urged that Kiir and Machar follow up on the new peace deal signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by “ending the violence and negotiating in good faith to reach a political agreement.”

Ethnically targeted violence in the world’s youngest country broke out in December, killing thousands of people and forcing more than 1.3 million to flee.

Friday’s meeting in was the first face-to-face encounter between Kiir and Machar since the mass violence began, and it came a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiir to urge a cease-fire.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.

Judge strikes down ban on same-sex marriage

A judge on Friday struck down Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage, saying the state has “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that the 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution violates the rights of same-sex couples. He didn’t put his ruling on hold as some judges have done in other states, opening the door for same-sex couples in Arkansas to begin seeking marriage licenses, though it wasn’t clear whether that would happen before Monday.

“This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality,” Piazza wrote. “The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.”

Piazza issued his ruling late Friday, about half an hour after the marriage license office in Pulaski County closed.

Clerks reached after the ruling said they weren’t prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses.

— From news service reports