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UN again calls on Sudan's Government and rebels to cease hostilities in Darfur

20 December 2004 ? In a yet another effort to implement a ceasefire in Sudan's western Darfur region, the United Nations and its partners have called on both the Government and rebels to cease hostilities in the latest deterioration in a conflict that the UN has termed the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), a body consisting of the UN, the Government and diplomats set up during Secretary-General Kofi Annan's official visit to Sudan in July to deal with the crisis - including the disarming of government-sponsored militias responsible for attacks on civilians - met yesterday in Khartoum, the capital, at the UN's request following the recent upsurge of violence.

The UN and its partners voiced concern over the recent fighting in breach of an April ceasefire agreement and the Abuja Protocols, a series of humanitarian and security accords signed last month in the Nigerian capital to end the conflict in Darfur, where 1.65 million people have been displaced since rebels took up arms last year to demand a greater share of economic resources. Janjaweed and other pro-government militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers.

At the meeting the UN and its partners also expressed concern at the scale and nature of the military offensive by the Government "to clear" the roads, and its impact on civilians. It was agreed that the government would immediately cease hostilities while the UN and the African Union (AU), which has a monitoring mission in the area, would request the rebel groups to do the same.

The UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) reported that the Government agreed also to withdraw its forces to the lines of 8 April 2004, when the Government and the two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), signed a ceasefire agreement.

During the meeting, the Government reported that the SLA attacked an oil field in Sharif between South Darfur and Kordofan on Saturday, killing 10 soldiers and injuring 5 civilians. The Government indicated that it reported the attack to the AU.

A number of trucks from a company hired by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to transport food were reported to have been hijacked by the SLA east of Nyala. The AU secured the release of some of them. There were also reports that the SLA yesterday stopped a commercial convoy carrying relief supplies to Nyala and took drums of diesel and fuel.

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