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UN Urges Support For African Force In Darfur

HIGHLIGHTING INSECURITY IN SUDAN'S DARFUR, UN URGES SUPPORT FOR AFRICAN FORCE

New York, Oct 19 2004 3:00PM

The United Nations mission in Sudan today said the security situation remains tense in the Darfur region, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged support for African Union (AU) efforts to bolster its monitoring and protection presence there.

The UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) reported incidents including possible ceasefire violations, an attack on a village, another on a convoy of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), militia activities and rape cases.

Underscoring the importance of safety for the people of Darfur, Mr. Annan said all sides must respect the ceasefire and take measures to protect civilians, even before the arrival of AU troops.

Speaking at a press conference in London with the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the Secretary-General noted that every effort is being made to send in the African monitors and protective force, "and I think their presence will also make quite a lot of difference."

Earlier this month, given the planned expansion of the AU's current 350-strong group of monitors, Mr. Annan recommended that the AU force be given the power to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, including those living in makeshift camps; monitor the activities of the local police; and disarm fighters, including the Janjaweed militias accused of committing most of the attacks against civilians.

With additional humanitarian workers being sent in, "I think…that many people would also help dissuade the attacks," he added. "On the security side we need to do everything and give the African Union the support to go in there. And we should press the parties, the government and the rebels, to go back to the table and discuss seriously, in the spirit of compromise, to find a political solution."

He also noted a $200 million shortfall in funding for relief activities and voiced hope that donor countries will do everything needed to provide resources for the UN's humanitarian effort.

"We need to provide humanitarian assistance in the quantities that are required. Not just give them food and shelter, but also the non-food items - health, sanitation and other aspects," he stressed.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said its mobile protection teams are currently working in western Darfur near the Chad border to monitor internal displacement, as well as mapping and assessing the condition of abandoned and destroyed villages.

"This work is vital in trying to help a complicated of mix of internally displaced people, recent returnees from Chad, and even Chadian refugees who still reside in Darfur," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Since heavy fighting broke out early last year in Darfur between government forces and two rebel groups, some 1.65 million people have been forced to flee their homes, with about 200,000 of them crossing into neighbouring Chad.

In a separate development, the UN agency and the Sudanese Government's Committee on Refugees have finalized plans to register Chadian refugees in Darfur in preparation for their eventual return home, Mr. Redmond noted.

The Chadian refugees have been in Darfur for many years, escaping severe drought and potential famine in 1984, as well as border clashes between Chadian and Libyan forces. "But now, having been caught up in the trauma of the recent violence in the region, want to return home," he said.

2004-10-19 00:00:00.000

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