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UN Secretary-General Says Failure in Darfur Not an Option

09 September 2007

U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says failure to achieve peace in Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur in not an option. In an exclusive interview with VOA in Tripoli, Mr. Ban tells reporter Lisa Schlein that he is optimistic that a political settlement to end the Darfur crisis is achievable.

U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon calls the situation in Darfur one of the most pressing issues in the world today. That is why, he says, he has made a political settlement to end the four-year old conflict his number one priority.

The secretary-general has just completed a week long visit to Sudan, Chad and Libya to discuss his peace agenda for Darfur with leaders of all three countries. He tells VOA the trip to visit this area was a good decision.

"I am optimistic. But, I would not call it a success. I would call it credible progress," Mr. ban said. "We must build upon this progress until we are able to claim that it was a great success bringing peace and security to Darfur…. I do not like to discuss nor think of any failure of this. We are working for the success of this political negotiation. We must succeed."

Ban says his resolve to end the war in Darfur was strengthened after he visited a camp for internally displaced people. He says he was shocked and humbled by the misery, poverty and desperation he saw.

About 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million have been forced to flee their homes since war broke out in 2003 between Sudanese-backed Janjaweed militia and African rebel groups.

The U.N. chief says one of the achievements of his trip was to get agreement to restart peace negotiations on October 27 in Libya. He says the Sudanese government and key rebel groups have said they will come to the African Union/U.N. mediated talks.

He says there is universal agreement that these renewed negotiations should be regarded as a final settlement of the issue.

"This should not be an open-ended meeting. At the same time, I have to be cautious in setting any deadline," Mr. ban said. "If you set a deadline, there is a tendency to cross over this deadline by some parties. But, we must make this a final settlement. For that, I would urge political flexibility of all the parties concerned for the future of Sudan. It is not only for the future of Sudan, for the future of peace and security in the region."

Ban says the war in Darfur has had a spill-over effect, most notably in Chad and the Central African Republic. He says Chad is hosting about 240,000 refugees from Darfur and another 40,000 from the C.A.R.

He tells VOA he will dispatch his special envoys to the region to do the groundwork for next month's peace negotiations. And, he says he will convene a high-level meeting at UN headquarters in New York on September 21 to settle on a road map to pave the way toward peace.

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