UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Annan discusses Darfur situation with officials in Khartoum
NAIROBI, 1 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who arrived in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Wednesday, has discussed the situation in the western region of Darfur with government, UN and NGO officials, ahead of a visit to the region.
Annan and the officials talked about the difficulties faced by aid workers trying to deliver much-needed relief to an estimated two million people affected by the conflict there, the UN said on Thursday.
Annan also held talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was also in the country, about the crisis in Darfur and steps being taken by the international community to alleviate the situation.
During a separate meeting, Annan asked a group of Sudanese ministers to help disarm the Janjawid militias and to remove all impediments to humanitarian relief, such as delays in granting visas to aid workers or releasing essential equipment from customs.
Earlier, on Tuesday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il had said his government was ready to accept assistance to solve the Darfur crisis. "We are ready to accept help," he told reporters in Khartoum, at a joint press conference with Powell.
Isma'il said Khartoum would "look at" specific measures Powell had requested of the Sudanese government. "We will look at these, including the lifting of any restrictions concerning humanitarian aid, also more security arrangements to protect civilians and disarm militias," he said. "We are looking seriously before the end of the visit of Secretary Powell to reach an agreed plan [on] how we can help bring the situation in Darfur to normal."
Powell told reporters that the purpose of his visit was "to be helpful", and that he had had "very candid" and "very direct" conversations with Isma'il and President Umar Hasan al-Bashir.
He said he had "indicated to the minister and to the president the deep concern that is felt in the international community" about Darfur, adding that unless improvements were seen, "it may be necessary for the international community to begin considering other actions - [UN] Security Council action."
Khartoum has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in Darfur, justifying attacks by saying it is fighting a rebellion in the region. Bashir has accused Western media of a campaign of lies, saying last week that accusations of "ethnic cleansing" by some Western media were "sheer fabrications and baseless", the Sudanese news agency reported.
According to the US government officials, Khartoum has done almost nothing to rein in the Janjawid, held responsible for most of the displacement and killing, and is still holding up the delivery of aid in the region.
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