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Annan Wants Int Presence To Stop Darfur Attacks

Sudan: Annan Calls For Expanded International Presence To Stop Darfur Attacks

Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the international presence in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region must be expanded as soon as possible because attacks against civilians are continuing and "the vast majority of militias" have not been disarmed.

In a report to the Security Council, which met yesterday to discuss what progress the Sudanese Government has made in meeting its pledges to restore security and end the violence plaguing Darfur, Mr. Annan says that while a number of steps have been taken, "some of the core commitments" have not been achieved.

The report, based partly on the findings of Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk - who just toured the region - concludes that a "scorched-earth policy" by armed militias has caused most of the violence since the conflict began there early last year.

More than 1.2 million people are displaced from their homes in Darfur and another 200,000 have to live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because their homes were damaged or destroyed or their fear for their lives if they return.

In July, as the Secretary-General wrapped up a trip to Darfur and Khartoum, the UN and the Sudanese Government signed a joint communiqué which committed the authorities to disarming the militias, known largely as the Janjaweed, and preventing them from conducting further attacks.

On 30 July the Council gave Khartoum 30 days to show progress on the commitments, warning that otherwise it may take action under Article 41 of the UN Charter. This includes unspecified economic penalties and the severing of diplomatic relations.

Mr. Annan finds, however, that the UN is still receiving reports of the destruction of villages and of people being raped or killed when they venture far from the displaced camps in search of food or firewood.

"The displaced have been terrorized and traumatized, and have lost confidence in the authorities," he says, adding it will be a long time before there is reconciliation between the people of Darfur and the Sudanese Government.

He says "no concrete steps" have been taken to identify the militia leaders or bring them to justice, ensuring there is a culture of impunity around human rights violations.

In a letter to the Council, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail disputed the report's findings, saying Khartoum had made "relentless efforts" to meet its obligations to the UN.

He said Sudanese authorities have convicted 12 Janjaweed militia members and sentenced three to the death penalty; donated large amounts of food relief; dramatically stepped up access to hospitals and health centres across Darfur; and taken part in ongoing peace talks in Nigeria with Darfur's two rebel groups.

Mr. Annan's report says the existing presence of African Union (AU) monitors must be substantially increased to rein in the violence and help protect Darfur's vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The UN has already prepared a blueprint to expand the AU contingent, and Mr. Annan says that contingent should take a more pro-active role in monitoring the situation and patrolling the region.

Speaking outside the Council yesterday, Sudanese Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa said his Government had no qualms about an increased AU force in Darfur, but it wanted its mandate to remain the same.

Ambassador John Danforth of the United States, also speaking outside the Council meeting, said Mr. Annan's report was wrong to suggest that there was no evidence of attacks by government airplanes since the communiqué was signed.

Mr. Danforth said the AU Ceasefire Commission reported that two government helicopters attacked two Darfur villages on 26 August - an attack confirmed by aid workers operating in the areas.

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