Annan Calls for Action to Stop Sudan Violence

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) called for urgent action Thursday to stop attacks on civilians in western Sudan, saying the government has failed to rein in militias.

Annan announced that he was sending U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and a special adviser on genocide, Juan Mendes, to Sudan this weekend to see what can be done immediately and in the future to provide better protection for civilians in the Darfur (search) region "who are desperately in need of it."

Regardless of whether acts of genocide have been committed in Darfur, Annan said, "it is urgent to take action now."

"Civilians are still being attacked and fleeing their villages even as we speak, many months after the government committed itself to bring the militias under control," he said. "The ceasefire is also being violated by both groups. Both sides have to stop violating the ceasefire."

Annan demanded swift Security Council (search) adoption of a resolution on Sudan and appealed to the council "to be as united as possible in the face of this crisis."

"It must continue to pressure all sides. And it must galvanize full international support for the efforts of the African Union, which needs immediate and extensive support to deploy expanded troops to Darfur," Annan said.

The secretary-general appeared before reporters as the United States circulated a new, softened, version of its draft resolution which endorses an expanded African Union monitoring force. It still threatens oil sanctions against the government if it doesn't act quickly to curb the militias and fails to cooperate with the African monitors.

The council has been deeply divided over the threat of sanctions and the U.S. call for an international commission to investigate the possibility of genocide.