Sudan's foreign minister and a U.N. envoy have agreed on a plan to begin disarming Arab militias and other outlawed groups in the next 30 days in western Darfur (search), the United Nations said.
Last Friday, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution giving Sudan (search) 30 days to curb pro-government Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, which have been blamed for violence in Darfur, or face possible diplomatic and economic penalties.
The new agreement was reached Wednesday night in the Sudanese capital Khartoum by the country's top diplomat Mustafa Osman Ismail and U.N. special representative Jan Pronk, U.N. spokeswoman Denise Cook said Thursday.
It must now be approved by Sudan's Cabinet, Cook said, and quoted Pronk as saying that if the Cabinet approves the agreement and if it is implemented "then he was very hopeful that the Security Council would come to the conclusion that there was indeed substantial progress and that there was no need to consider further action."
Cook said the plan, which was not released in Khartoum, "contains detailed steps to be taken in the next 30 days on how to begin to disarm the Janjaweed (search) and other outlawed groups, on improving security in Darfur, and on addressing the humanitarian crisis."
The United States estimates that up to 30,000 people have been killed in the 17-month conflict and predicts more deaths to come between September and December as the rains come, sanitation and water systems collapse, and disease spreads.
The United Nations says 1 million people have been forced to flee their homes and an estimated 2.2 million people are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter.
John Danforth, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the clock is ticking on compliance with the Security Council resolution and the Sudanese government must show that it is making "a good faith effort."
"By the end of this month we will have a very good indication of whether the government is serious or whether it's not serious," he told reporters.
Pronk and Ismail had been meeting since Sunday as part of the Joint Implementation Mechanism, which was set up to ensure compliance with commitments made by Sudan and the United Nations in a July 3 agreement aimed at easing the crisis in Darfur.
In Washington, President Bush urged the Sudanese government to stop the violence by the Janjaweed, respect a cease-fire and allow free movement of humanitarian aid.
Danforth said council members will be asking: "Is the government doing anything to disarm the Janjaweed? Is it doing anything to protect the civilian population? Or is it essentially doing nothing?"
"If the government is unloading bombs from planes, using helicopters to destroy villages, if there is a sense of command and control flowing from the government to the Janjaweed ... that would be a very, very clear picture," he said.
"If this situation continues, it's going to be very visible ... and the government of Sudan will be an international pariah, and there will be consequences,' he said.