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Sudanese Pres. meets top official on Darfur force

Top humanitarian official meets with Sudanese President on Darfur force

The top United Nations humanitarian official is meeting with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir today to seek his support for a visit by an assessment team to pave the way for a UN force to help stem the suffering in Darfur, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this afternoon.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, who is nearing the end of his five-day visit to Sudan and Chad, will follow up on a letter Mr. Annan wrote to President al-Bashir yesterday discussing the assessment mission and other issues, Mr. Annan told journalists following his monthly working luncheon with the Security Council.

“His support for this vital mission is essential,” Mr. Annan said yesterday about the Sudanese President in confirming that he had written to him directly.

Until now Sudan has opposed the establishment of a UN force in Darfur, where fighting between the Government, pro-government militias and rebels has already killed at least 180,000 people and uprooted 2 million more in the past three years.

However, after the conclusion of a peace accord in the talks in Abuja, Nigeria, where the agreement with the largest rebel force was reached last week, the Government said it was prepared to discuss UN involvement.

Under-Secretary-General Egeland had already met, yesterday, with Vice President Ali Osman Taha in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to discuss security, access and resources for humanitarian operations in Darfur and others areas of the country.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), he received assurances at the meeting on several of these issues, including a promise that the Government would consider contributing emergency food supplies to cover the huge gaps in the food pipeline before additional supplies donated by the United States and other governments arrives in Sudan.

OCHA said that the Vice President also reaffirmed that the announced moratorium on access restrictions for Darfur will be fully respected, and confirmed that the Norwegian Refugee Council will be reinstated as Camp coordinator, as the Governor of South Darfur had assured Mr. Egeland the previous day.

Earlier today, Mr. Egeland was in eastern Chad, where he visited a refugee camp and internally displaced persons and met with local officials and aid organizations.

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