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UN Secretary-General Urges Cease-Fire in Darfur

04 September 2007

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he has urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to implement an immediate cease-fire in Darfur. The Secretary-General made his appeal during a dinner late Monday with President Bashir at his official guesthouse in Khartoum. Lisa Schlein says Ban told journalists details of his discussions with the Sudanese President before departing for Juba from where Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls his discussions with Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir very good and fruitful. He says they touched on a wide range of issues related to establishing a basis for long-lasting peace. He says he told Bashir it is crucially important to deploy the African Union/United Nations hybrid peacekeeping force quickly to contain the violence in Darfur.

He says this was essential to ensure free access for aid workers so they can carry out their humanitarian work without fear of violence and intimidation.

"President Bashir said he was committed to a cease-fire," said Mr. Ban. "At the same time, he also explained, when there is an assault on government forces he had to take necessary action to defend himself."

About 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million have been internally displaced since the war in Darfur broke out in 2003.

Ban says no military solution to this war is possible. Only a political solution will end the conflict.

In this regard, he says President Bashir has made an important concession by agreeing to immediately release a jailed leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army. Suleiman Jamous has been in government custody for more than a year awaiting medical treatment.

"I discussed this matter and raised his case again with President Bashir. I explained to him that his immediate release creates a favorable atmosphere for peace," he added. "I am pleased to announce that President Bashir agreed to his immediate release. The U.N. office here will take the necessary arrangement to bring him to Kenya as soon as necessary arrangements are made."

Ban says he expects political talks between the government and rebel leaders will take place in October. The time and place still have to be worked out. He says he plans to hold a high-level meeting on the situation in Darfur in New York on September 21. He says Sudan's foreign minister will attend.

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