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Annan in Sudan for govt talks, to visit AU troops

KHARTOUM, May 27 (Reuters) – U.N. chief Kofi Annan arrived in Sudan on Friday to see for himself the humanitarian crisis in the country’s western Darfur region, a day after urging rich nations to pledge more money to help end bloodshed there.

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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan (L) is welcomed by Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Relations Najeeb al-Kheir Abdul Wahab as he arrives in Khartoum May 27, 2005. (Reuters).

The U.N. secretary-general flew into rain-soaked Khartoum to be greeted by about 200 women protesting on the airport tarmac against a Security Council resolution referring alleged war crimes in Darfur to an international court.

During his three-day visit, he will hold talks with Sudan’s leadership and go to Darfur to view African Union monitors at work trying to quell an uprising which has killed tens of thousands and forced some 2 million people from their homes.

About 2,300 troops from African Union member states such as South Africa, Rwanda, Gabon, Nigeria and Senegal and hundreds of civilian police are monitoring a shaky ceasefire between Khartoum and rebel groups in Darfur.

Annan warned on Thursday that unless international donors acted quickly to fund a larger AU force to help restore stability to the troubled region, then they would end up having to pay for an “epic relief effort”.

About 180,000 people have died in Darfur through violence, hunger and disease since the rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in February 2003.

Annan first visited Sudan 11 months ago, at the height of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Since then the humanitarian situation in the refugee camps has improved, but security remains a problem for almost 10,000 aid workers delivering food and medicine.

“Access is very good. Humanitarian assistance has stepped up,” said the top U.N. envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk.

Annan will travel to South Darfur, the state which has seen some of the worst violence in recent months and where aid workers complain most of harassment by local authorities.

He will also meet former rebel John Garang, the head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, who signed a peace agreement with the Khartoum government in January to end a separate and bloodier conflict in Sudan’s south.

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