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As Security Council readies text on Sudan, Annan sounds alarm on Darfur rapes

29 July 2004 Citing reports of rapes and other attacks by militiamen against villagers in Sudan's Darfur region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the Government to protect civilians, while the Security Council prepared to vote tomorrow on a resolution threatening measures against Khartoum if it does not disarm the militias and bring the leaders to justice.

"The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about reports of continuing intimidation, threats and attacks against internally displaced persons in Darfur," a spokesperson for Mr. Annan said in a statement.

The Secretary-General pointed particularly to West Darfur, where the Janjaweed - bands of armed Arab fighters who travel mainly on horseback - stand accused of raping local black African women. Many of the victims have fled their home villages because of militia attacks.

In camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Darfur, Sudanese Government security officials are harassing residents who have spoken to foreign visitors, and have arrested and beaten several community leaders.

Mr. Annan appealed to Khartoum to stick to its commitments, outlined in a 3 July joint communiqué signed with the UN, to disarm the Janjaweed and ensure the protection and security of all IDPs in Darfur.

At least 1.2 million people are estimated to be internally displaced, while as many as 200,000 others live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because of the militia attacks and the fighting between Government forces and two rebel groups.

UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said the Security Council's 15 members will meet tomorrow morning to vote on a draft resolution about Sudan sponsored by the United States and the United Kingdom.

Condemning the violence and expressing concern at the humanitarian situation, the draft resolution calls for an arms embargo on all non-Government forces - including the Janjaweed - in Darfur.

The resolution says the Council might take measures allowed in the UN Charter, including imposing economic penalties and severing diplomatic relations, if Sudan does not make progress on achieving its pledges from the joint communiqué.

It calls for the resumption of political talks between Sudan and the two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

Council members will also be asked to endorse the African Union's deployment of monitors in Darfur and urge the international community to "make available much needed assistance to mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe."

Meanwhile, at the Zam Zam camp in North Darfur, IDPs and community leaders refused to attend the launch of the hygiene promotion campaign by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) because they feared reprisals from the Sudanese Government.

Ms. Okabe said the IDPs told UN staff they had been threatened and harassed the previous night, a claim repeated by IDPs at other camps.

UN humanitarian workers say they are particularly concerned about Sudan's attempts to force IDPs to return to their homes during the current rainy season. It will be almost impossible to distribute food and other aid supplies to some villages - possibly at least until November - because of the heavy rains.

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