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UN urges Sudan to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur

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Mar 22, 2006 (GENEVA) — The top United Nations humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, on Wednesday urged Sudan’s government to accept the intervention of UN peacekeepers to tackle worsening strife in the western region of Darfur.

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Jan Egeland

"The UN should be able to take over security in Darfur simply because the world is not able to equip the African Union (AU) force as it should," the UN emergency relief coordinator told journalists.

"I’m suggesting the Sudanese government sees ... that their people, women and children, are dying massively and they need help. They should accept the offer of help that is there," he added.

"This would be totally in line with the cultural and religious beliefs of all parties in Sudan."

Egeland’s comments came a day after Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir renewed his rejection of foreign intervention in the western region.

Beshir said Khartoum was ready to assist AU forces operating in Darfur, where clashes between government-backed militia and local rebels have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions others.

Early this month, the AU agreed in principle to hand over its cash-strapped peacekeeping mission in Darfur to the UN. Khartoum argued that the move would worsen the situation.

Egeland, who was spearheading the launch in Geneva of a Norwegian report on some 24-million internally displaced people in the world, said the situation in Darfur was deteriorating.

Humanitarian agencies were "retreating every week", he added.

"If we are denied access we have very, very serious problems. We are being delayed now and even our advance team is not allowed to go to Khartoum to plan for such a mission.

"I fear the next months more than I have done in any previous period since summer 2004, because the UN takeover could potentially take many, many months," he added, referring to a peak of suffering in Darfur that prompted a massive aid effort.

The combined effect of the war and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises has left up to 300 000 people dead and an estimated 2,4-million displaced.

The 7 000-strong AU force, which was deployed in 2004, has been suffering from poor funding and inadequate resources to contain the escalating bloodshed.

(ST/AFP)

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