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Annan writes Sudanese President urging disarmament of militias

13 May 2004 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan to disarm the militia whose attacks on civilians in the western region of Darfur have led to a grave humanitarian crisis, and to improve the access of humanitarian workers to those uprooted from their homes, Mr. Annan's spokesman said today.

In his letter, Mr. Annan also asked Mr. al-Bashir to maintain the humanitarian ceasefire and facilitate the early deployment of African Union (AU) observers throughout the area, while negotiating a political settlement to the crisis, spokesman Fred Eckhard told the daily briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

Earlier this month, the AU sent a mission to consult with the Sudanese Government and the two rebel movements in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), as well as with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), about establishing a ceasefire commission.

The humanitarian ceasefire agreement on the Darfur conflict, signed last month in western neighbour Chad, provides for such a commission.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun, met Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka in Nairobi and delivered Mr. Annan's thanks for Kenya's efforts on behalf of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is sponsoring peace talks for Sudan and Somalia.

He went on to meet Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha and the Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), Dr. John Garang, at Naivasha, where the talks are taking place.

Mr. Sahnoun said the Secretary-General was encouraged by the cohesiveness shown by the IGAD Ministers on Somalia when they met last Thursday and was looking forward to the cooperation of the Somali leaders at the next meeting on 20 May.

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