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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 27 July 2004

COTE D IVOIRE-SUDAN: Annan to discuss Sudan with African leaders in Accra on Thursday

ABUJA, 26 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan will discuss the crisis in western Sudan's Darfur region with African leaders at a summit in Ghana on Thursday, the Nigerian government said on Monday.

The summit will take place on the sidelines of a separately planned meeting aimed at breaking the political deadlock in Cote d'Ivoire.

Remi Oyo, the official spokeswoman of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said in a statement on Monday that Obasanjo would chair the talks on both crises in his capacity as chairman of the African Union (AU).

The Accra summit had been convened "to discuss some peace initiatives in Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire," she said.

President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire was already due to meet Ivorian rebel and parliamentary opposition leaders in the Ghanaian capital on Thursday under the watchful eye of Annan and several West African heads of state in a last-ditch attempt to break four months of political deadlock and prevent his country from sliding back into civil war.

But Darfur, described by some UN officials as the world's worst humanitarian crisis and by the U.S. Congress as genocide, has now been added to the agenda.

Diplomatic sources said that in addition to Obasanjo and President John Kufuor of Ghana, the heads of state of South Africa, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali would attend the Accra talks.

Fighting in Darfur between two rebel groups and the Janjawid militia allied to the government has killed thousands of people and displaced at least 1.2 million more.

Three weeks ago at its annual summit, the AU proposed sending about 300 peacekeeping troops to Darfur by the end of July, with Nigeria offering 120 soldiers, but confusion remains over the terms of their deployment.

Monday's statement from the Nigerian presidency said Obasanjo had despatched former Nigerian military leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar to Sudan and Chad ahead of Thursday's meeting as a special envoy "for talks and on-the-spot assessment of the crisis in the Sudan, especially Darfur."

Last year, Abubakar acted as the official mediator in peace talks which led to the end of a 14-year civil war in Liberia.
International pressure is mounting on Sudan to rein in the Janjawid and open up Darfur to unrestricted international humanitarian assistance.

Four days after the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a resolution declaring the human rights abuses in Darfur region as "genocide", the European Union on Monday urged the United Nations to pass a resolution threatening Khartoum with sanctions if the government does not act to end the conflict.

The Accra summit will also try to resolve the political impasse in Cote d'Ivoire, which has been split into a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north since civil war broke out in September 2002.

A French-brokered peace agreement was signed in January 2003 and the fighting finally stopped three months later, but the rebels have so far refused to disarm until political reforms are enacted.

In March the peace process was frozen when the rebels and the four main opposition parties represented in parliament walked out of a broad-based government of national reconciliation, after the security forces killed at least 120 people in Abidjan following opposition attempts to stage a banned demonstration.

Gbagbo subsequently fired three opposition ministers in May, including rebel leader Guillaume Soro. He has so far refused to reinstate them.

[ENDS]



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