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Other Sudanese conflicts may harm peace mission

Other Sudanese conflicts may harm peace mission for country's south, Security Council told

The top United Nations envoy cautioned the Security Council today that unless solutions are found to the conflicts plaguing Darfur and other regions of Sudan, the UN peace-support mission planned for the country's south will suffer.

Briefing the Council on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report outlining the mandate of the mission, Jan Pronk, Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, said the country's future development and stability depends on ensuring that the peace process is as comprehensive as possible.

Mr. Annan has called for the deployment of 10,130 troops and up to 755 civilian police as part of the peace-support mission, which is being set up after last month's signing of a peace deal ending a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan.

But a civil war between the Sudanese Government and local rebel groups has raged in Darfur in the country's west since early 2003, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing more than 1.8 million others. There has also been unrest in eastern Sudan.

After today's briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Pronk told reporters, "I am convinced that without a solution in Darfur, the north-south will not remain a sustainable peace agreement."

He said violence continues in Darfur, with villages and small towns "completely demolished" and the notorious Janjaweed militias, which are allied to the Sudanese Government, boasting openly to African Union (AU) ceasefire monitors that they plan more attacks on villages.

Mr. Pronk said the number of AU monitors in Darfur - currently being increased to around 4,000 from about 1,500 - should be doubled so that they can better cover the vast territory of the region, which is equal in size to France.

Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and rebel leader John Garang, who will become a Vice-President under the north-south peace deal, have been invited to brief the Council on Tuesday.

In his briefing to Council members, Mr. Pronk stressed that if there is any incentive for Sudanese groups to solve their problems through force, then the peace process in southern Sudan will falter. These groups "could be people in other parts of Sudan who feel oppressed, marginalized or neglected," he said.

The envoy said it was therefore vital to move quickly to disarm and demobilize former combatants, reform the security sector, return and reintegrate refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), establish solid economic and political governance, promote the rule of law, remove landmines, rebuild damaged infrastructure and reduce poverty.

Mr. Pronk acknowledged that "this is an enormous challenge," and also emphasized that the UN mission is designed to have "a relatively light footprint" - helping the Sudanese fulfil functions rather than imposing or carrying them out itself.

Under the peace deal, southern Sudan will enjoy greater autonomy and a larger share of economic resources, including oil. After six and a half years the people of the region will be able to vote in a referendum on whether they should secede or remain with the rest of Sudan.


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