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UN official invites Sudanese minister to Headquarters for talks on Darfur force

30 March 2006 The top United Nations political official has invited the Sudan’s Foreign Minister to the world body’s New York Headquarters to hold discussions on transitioning from an African Union (AU) force in the country’s troubled Darfur region to a UN peacekeeping operation there.

Ibrahim Gambari, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told reporters of the initiative today in the Sudanese capital Khartoum where he is meeting with officials who attended the League of Arab States Summit that closed yesterday.

In discussions with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Ismael, Mr. Gambari “stressed that the United Nations, if it were to deploy forces, would build on and complement the good work of the AU to achieve peace, security and stability all over the Sudan,” a UN spokesperson said in New York.

Mr. Gambari also met with the Special Representative of the AU in Sudan to discuss that organization’s continuing role in Darfur, where much of the population continues to be caught in a conflict between the Government, militias and rebel forces, and where close to 200,000 people have already died, with over two million displaced.

Because of the continuing violence, last Friday the Security Council requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to present options for transition to a UN operation in Darfur by 24 April.

In the margins of the Summit, Mr. Gambari discussed Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Cyprus with officials and leaders of other governments, according to the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA).

In a meeting with the Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh of Lebanon, Mr. Gambari commended the country’s political leadership for progress achieved in country’s ongoing national dialogue.

Conferring with Somali leaders, he congratulated Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf on the recent convening of the first session of the Transitional Federal Parliament and expressed satisfaction that the President was accompanied by Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi and the Speaker of Parliament, Sharif Hasan Shiek Adan.

Mr. Gambari said this demonstrates growing unity among the top leaders in the country. But he also expressed concern about recent deadly clashes in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Cyprus and Iraq were the subjects of a discussion with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, DPA said.

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