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North-South Peace In Sudan Needs To Extend


North-South Peace In Sudan Needs To Extend Into Western Darfur, Security Council Told

Calling the recent peace agreement between Sudan's north and south a milestone, the United Nations envoy for Sudan called on that country's Government and the rebels in the western region of Darfur to end their conflict and give the country a "peace dividend."

The Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, told the Security Council that he had flown straight to New York after having been one of the signatories to the north-south agreement in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, that ended the continent's longest civil war.

"It is hard to imagine that the peace dividend promised by the Nairobi agreement will be reaped without an end to the suffering in Darfur. International aid will not flow and, more important, in Sudan itself the achievement will turn out to be vulnerable. As long as there is war in some part of the country, resources will be spent on weapons, not welfare," he said.

The conflict in Darfur, roughly an area the size of France, erupted in early 2003 after rebel groups took up arms against Sudanese Government forces in protest over the distribution of economic resources. The fighting has claimed tens of thousands of lives and uprooted more than 1.8 million people from their homes, with some fleeing into neighbouring Chad.

The armed groups have been re-arming and the conflict spreading outside Darfur, Mr. Pronk said in his monthly briefing. "Large quantities of arms have been carried into Darfur in defiance of the Security Council decision taken in July. December saw a build-up of arms, attacks of positions, including air attacks, raids on small towns and villages, increased banditry, more looting."

Fighting was affecting humanitarian work more frequently and more directly than bureaucratic restrictions ever did, "with fatal and tragic and consequences," he added.

Neither Khartoum, welcoming praise over the agreement, nor the Darfur rebels, fearing that they may be further marginalized, should conclude that with the signing of the north-south peace pact, they should seize the opportunity to deal one another decisive blows, he warned.

"Both perceptions would be false, both reactions dangerous. Both have to be countered by pressure, reason and the offering of an alternative," he said.

Among his recommendations for a comprehensive agreement were requiring the Government and the Darfur rebels to exercise full restraint, both sides withdrawing behind well-defined lines and both sides supplying their combatants with food and other survival needs, so as to diminish the urge to loot and kill, he said.

The forces from the African Union (AU) were the third party needed "to be everywhere violence may erupt" and "they need help from the international community to make it happen," Mr. Pronk said.

While negotiations were proceeding, "it would be useful to start thinking of including tribal leaders in finding political solutions" - leaders from tribes outside the control of the Government and the rebel movements, he said.

"Peace in Darfur requires broad and strong support from all," Mr. Pronk said.


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