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United Nations Discussing Worsening Conditions in Darfur

12 January 2006

Countries looking to increase security, U.N. secretary-general says

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The deteriorating situation in Darfur once again has moved to the top of the international agenda as the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the African Union examine how to protect and provide humanitarian aid for more than 3 million people caught in the continuous fighting between rebels and government-sponsored forces.

Annan said that killings, rapes and general insecurity for displaced civilians continue, and the situation has forced the United Nations to remove some staff members from the area and has cut U.N. access to many in need.

"It wasn't long ago that we were feeding a million people and the whole world was focused on this.  Today we are feeding 3 million people and may have to do it for another year and it is off the front pages of the newspapers," Annan told journalists January 12 after having private talks with the 15 members of the Security Council.

The secretary-general stressed that both the rebels and government are violating the cease-fire agreement and actively attacking people in Darfur.

"What we need to do is to find a way to improve immediate security, working with the African Union [AU] forces, and provide logistical and financial support to be able to strengthen security on the ground," he said.  "We need to energize the peace process in Abuja because the long-term solution only lies at the negotiating table."

The Security Council has scheduled both public and private meetings on Darfur for January 13.

The international community also must press the Sudanese government to honor its commitment to protect its own people and help with the humanitarian assistance, the secretary-general said.  The rebels, he added, have to take seriously peace negotiations being held in Abuja, Nigeria.

At a meeting in Darfur January 12, the African Union said that resources for its peacekeepers now in Darfur will run out in March, but it is willing to keep its force in the province for another nine months to 12 months, provided the international community supplies sufficient resources and logistical support.

Annan said that the international community "cannot let that situation go unredressed."

In September 2005, the U.N. Summit adopted a resolution acknowledging that the international community has the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  Darfur "is a challenge" to that commitment, the secretary-general said.

Potential methods to enhance protection include a donor conference similar to one held in May 2005 to muster help for the AU.  Another possibility is using a larger, more robust and mobile U.N. peacekeeping force when the mandate of the AU force expires, Annan said.  In any event, he added, the African Union will need money and support beyond March until the United Nations could take over.

The African Union needs money, he said.  "They need it quickly."

The United Nations envisions a different peacekeeping force from the one now deployed in Darfur.  The expanded force would need to include troops from outside Africa.  The Sudanese government, which has objected to peacekeepers from outside Africa, will have to cooperate with the United Nations on that issue, Annan said.

"We've gone beyond that now," he said.

"It's a large territory.  Whatever force is there has to be more mobile, has to have tactical air support, helicopters and ability to respond quickly.  We will need very sophisticated equipment and support," Annan said.

For additional information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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