Home | News    Tuesday 26 October 2004

Security Council votes to hold rare meeting in Nairobi to promote peace in Sudan

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By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26, 2004 (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hold a rare meeting in Nairobi next month to promote a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and southern rebels that the United States says is crucial to ending a separate conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, who sponsored the resolution, expressed hope that the council meetings in the Kenyan capital on Nov. 18-19 will lead both sides to "close the differences very, very substantially — and it would be great if there were a peace agreement."

The 15-member Security Council, the most powerful U.N. body, has sent missions to many countries. But the Nairobi meeting will be only the fourth official council meeting outside New York since 1952, Danforth said.

"I think that it says to the parties that they are on center stage in world affairs, and that the Security Council and the world is looking to both sides ... to be very flexible and to move forward and to conclude a peace agreement," he said.

The conflict broke out in 1983 after the rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north. Most of the 2 million casualties have come from war-induced famine.

Talks to end the fighting resumed in Nairobi on Oct. 7 and adjourned for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The government and rebels agreed to form a 24,000-member national army, with half the troops from each side. But they are at odds over a rebel demand to maintain a separate army as a security guarantee.

Danforth, who will hold the Security Council presidency in November, said ending the civil war between the government and southern rebels would "provide the basis for moving forward in Darfur and resolving the political aspect of that problem."

At least 70,000 people have died and 1.5 million forced from their homes in the Darfur crisis, which began in February 2003 when two rebel groups took up arms over what they regarded as unjust treatment by the government and ethnic Arab countrymen.

Major bloodshed ensued when pro-government militias called Janjaweed reacted by unleashing attacks on Darfur villages.

On Monday, Sudan’s government and the Darfur rebels resumed peace talks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Representatives at the African Union-brokered talks said the meeting would aim at agreeing an agenda for the negotiations.

Under the resolution adopted Tuesday, representatives of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a seven-member regional body that led talks to form Somalia’s new government, will be invited to meet with the council to discuss Sudan and other peace efforts.

But Danforth, who previously led U.S. efforts to end Sudan’s civil war, said the focus of the council’s meeting in Nairobi is Sudan.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current council president, said the trip "can demonstrate on the ground exactly why central and eastern Africa matters, and why we’re addressing Sudan in particular."

"We can’t do that any clearer than actually taking all of us over and having discussions there," he said.

Algeria’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the only Arab council member, expressed hope that the trip will lead to a peace agreement.

Asked whether it was symbolic, he said: "It’s political. It’s political."

But Baali stressed, "we’re certainly expecting something substantive to happen."

The Security Council met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1972, in Panama City, Panama, in 1973, and in Geneva, Switzerland in 1990.

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