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Annan concerned at ‘appalling’ state of Darfur

Concerned at ‘appalling’ state of Darfur, Annan urges Security Council to beef up force

Concerned that the world is not moving fast enough to deal with the “appalling situation” in Sudan’s Darfur region, with reports of killing, rape and burning still flowing in, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today summoned Security Council members to a meeting to press for a beefed up international force on the ground.

Among options discussed were strengthening the African Union (AU) monitoring force, at present numbering 1,900 troops out of an original target of up to 4,000, and setting up a possible UN force, to end the Darfur conflict, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and almost 2 million forced from their homes since fighting erupted between the Government, allied militias and rebels in 2003.

“There have been a lot of efforts on the humanitarian side, and by the African Union on the security side, which go in the right direction. But they are not enough,” Mr. Annan said in a statement issued after the meeting.

“I was glad to hear from Council members that they hope to have a new resolution in the course of this week, which will include agreement on a mechanism for holding individuals accountable for these dreadful crimes. That is good. We must send a clear message that the world is not going to tolerate them,” he added.

A Commission of Inquiry, set up last year by Mr. Annan, found there had been war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides, but primarily by Government forces and militias, and said their perpetrators should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Noting that everyone agreed that a stronger international presence on the ground is crucial, Mr. Annan said “clearly everyone’s first preference” is for the AU to stay in the lead, “but for the rest of us to give it more effective help, while keeping other options open.” Where the AU troops are, things are better for the population, but there are far too few of them, he added.

He also welcomed pressure from the public and media for stronger and faster decisions on this issue. “We here are getting thousands of letters from people urging stronger action. I am sure national governments are getting them too,” he said.

“I will hold a meeting next week with some of the leading NGOs (non-governmental organizations), to discuss with them the best ways of canalising this pressure so that it results in effective action by governments.”

Mr. Annan also noted that everybody at the meeting agreed on the “vital” need to keep a separate peace process on track in southern Sudan, where a peace treaty signed two months ago between the Government and rebels ended Africa’s longest civil war.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, on a four-day trip to Sudan, said over the weekend he was concerned at the low level of funding for the country’s 2005 work plan, with only 5 per cent of the funds needed in hand for rehabilitation and repatriation of 4.5 million refugees and displaced people in the south.

“Either the world comes up with the investment or we lose the historic opportunity to put right one of the worst wars of our generation,” he declared, stressing the disturbing discrepancy between what the world promised to do once the peace agreement in the south was signed and what it has delivered so far.

Mr. Annan took up the same them, stressing that it is vital to treat Sudan’s problems in their totality. “So we urge all donors to come through with their promises of aid for the south, and we don’t think it would be a good idea to ‘cannibalise’ the UN peacekeeping mission there for the sake of Darfur,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, today visited Asmara, Eritrea, for talks with Government and Darfur rebel representatives in a bid to resume negotiations between the parties in Abuja, Nigeria, aimed at enforcing a ceasefire and leading to peace talks.

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