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Annan: No Progress by Sudan in Darfur

Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) reported no progress by the Sudanese government to end the crisis in the western Darfur (search) region, citing continuing clashes, attacks against civilians, escalating banditry and tribal conflict.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council (search) circulated Monday night, Annan described fresh promises by the Khartoum government but no positive action during September to end the 19-month conflict that has killed over 50,000 people and forced 1.4 million to flee their homes.

The secretary-general said the government made "no further progress" in September in key areas essential to restoring security including implementing a cease-fire, stopping attacks on civilians, disarming militias, and persecuting the perpetrators of atrocities.

"It is clear that the cease-fire is not holding in many parts of Darfur," he said.

"Today, still increasing numbers of the population of Darfur are exposed, without any protection from their government, to hunger, fear and violence," Annan said.

"The numbers affected by the conflict are growing and their suffering is being prolonged by inaction," he said. "In a significant proportion of the territory the security conditions have worsened."

Annan's second monthly report was issued hours before his top envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, was to brief the Security Council Tuesday morning.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current council president, said he did not expect a new Security Council resolution on Sudan.

The council adopted a resolution last month strongly endorsing deployment of a beefed-up African Union force with an expanded monitoring mission that would actively try to prevent attacks and mediate to stop the conflict from escalating. It threatens oil sanctions against Sudan unless the government reins in Arab militias blamed for the killing and looting spree in Darfur.

Annan noted that his previous report had cited "some progress" by the government including improving security in several areas where Sudanese have taken refuge, deployment of additional police, and lifting restrictions to humanitarian relief.

"In the month of September, this progress has not been reversed," he said.

But Annan said Pronk had received reports "on clashes, attacks, hijackings, banditry and tribal conflict" from U.N. staff and humanitarian groups on the ground and said much more needs to be done to protect civilians and restore security.

"The most important step to be taken in the coming weeks is beginning the deployment of the expanded African Union force," he said.

Last week, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who heads the African Union, said the 53-nation body can quickly mobilize up to 5,000 troops to help end the looting and killing in Darfur but it needs hundreds of millions of dollars to deploy the force.

The AU now has 68 military observers in Darfur — a region about the size of France — protected by 308 soldiers, monitoring a rarely observed cease-fire signed in April by the government and rebels.

Facing a U.N.-authorized genocide investigation and the threat of U.N. sanctions, Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told the Security Council on Thursday that Khartoum would accept 3,500 African Union troops for Darfur. Later, he told reporters that if the AU "want 5,000 (troops), it's no problem."

Sudan's Arab-dominated government is accused of mobilizing Arab tribal fighters for attacks on Darfur's villagers, in retaliation for uprisings launched by two non-Arab Darfur rebel movements in February 2003. Sudan denies any responsibility and says it has disarmed some of the Arab militiamen, known as Janjaweed.

Annan said the second major issue this month is the resumption of peace talks between the government and the two rebel groups in Darfur on Oct. 24.

In a separate report earlier Monday, Annan urged the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement to end their 21-year civil war in southern Sudan, saying a peace accord there could help end the Darfur conflict. The secretary-general welcomed the decision of the government and the SPLM to resume negotiations on Oct. 7.