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US Envoy Wraps Up Trip to Sudan

07 March 2007

The U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, has concluded a five-day visit to Sudan by meeting with the Sudanese president. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

During his discussions with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Natsios stressed that the only way to end the long-running war in the Darfur region is through negotiated peace.

Natsios also said there are not enough troops in Africa to constitute a peacekeeping force that would help put an end to the warfare, and urged that troops from outside Africa be allowed to be deployed in Darfur.

U.S. embassy spokesman Joel Maybury tells VOA another key topic of conversation between Natsios and the Sudanese leader was the plight of the people caught up in the fighting.

"He highlighted the importance of the U.S. government and indeed the international community to keep the humanitarian assistance flow open and signaled his concerns to President Bashir and to others during the trip about some of the hurdles and obstacles that humanitarian agencies in the field face," he said. "He is very, very keen on seeing the Sudanese government work to remove these obstacles so that humanitarian assistance can flow to the people who need it."

Some obstacles humanitarian agencies face include delays in obtaining visas, equipment being held up in the Port of Sudan due to bureaucracy, and harassment of aid workers.

Natsios concluded his five-day visit to Sudan, which included discussions with officials in Darfur and Juba, the capital of southern Sudan.

The four-year-old Darfur conflict has killed about 200,000 people and has displaced 2 million more.

Involved in the fighting are Sudanese government troops, a militia called janjaweed that many say is being backed by the Sudanese government, and two rebel groups.

The Sudanese government and only one of the rebel groups have signed a peace agreement.

Calls have been intensifying for a U.N. peacekeeping force to come in and bring stability to the volatile region, but Bashir and others have resisted such a move, saying that bringing in peacekeepers from outside Africa would compromise Sudan's autonomy.

Bashir is also under fire for refusing to hand over war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court.

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