NAIROBI, Kenya – U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) on Thursday called on the Security Council (search) to issue "the strongest warning" to the forces fighting in Sudan to bring an end to the civil wars there.
Annan's comments were made to Security Council members in Kenya's capital, where they have begun extraordinary meetings on the violence and humanitarian crisis in Sudan (search).
"I regret to report that the security situation in (the western region of) Darfur continued to deteriorate despite the cease-fire agreement signed earlier," Annan said. "Both the government and its militias as well as the rebel groups have breached these agreements."
The council was expected to hear from representatives of the African Union, the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Sudanese government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, the main southern rebel group.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, called the meeting to give members a chance to meet with experts working to end the fighting and suffering in Sudan's western Darfur region, as well as those hoping to wrap up a peace deal to end a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan.
"The strongest warning to all the parties that are causing this suffering is essential," Annan said.
"When crimes on such a scale are being committed, and a sovereign state appears unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens, a grave responsibility falls on the international community, and specifically on this Council," he said.
Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha told the Security Council Sudan is committed to, "establishing peace and stability," across Sudan.
"The war in Darfur is of a political nature, it has been instigated by local parties who receive support from foreign parties," he said.
Taha called on the international community to help Sudan to disarm and demobilize the fighters in his country and to help in reconstruction.
More than 2 million people have died, mainly from war-induced famine, in the 21-year old conflict in southern Sudan, which is separate from fighting in Darfur, where pro-government Arab militias are accused of waging a campaign of murder, rape and arson on African villagers.
The southern conflict broke out in 1983 after the rebels from the mainly traditional beliefs and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north to press for better treatment and the right for southerners to choose whether to remain part of Sudan.
Darfur's bloodletting started in February 2003, when two non-Arab African rebel groups launched attacks primarily on government and military targets to press demands for a greater share of power and resources for Darfur.
At least 70,000 people have died since March in the region because of disease, hunger and hardships from being uprooted. Many more have been killed in fighting since the conflict started, but no firm estimate exists.
After a brief meeting with Nairobi-based aid agencies and civil groups Friday morning, the council was scheduled to adopt a resolution on Sudan.
A draft of the resolution promises financial and political support for any peace agreements reached to end the violence in Sudan, but members had yet to agree on whether the council should threaten to impose sanctions or take any other kind of action should any party to the conflict fail to obey a cease-fire or allow aid agencies access to civilians in need of help.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has called the violence in Darfur a genocide and in September accused four Security Council members — China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan — of valuing their business deals in Sudan over humanitarian concerns. All four abstained from an 11-0 vote to set up a commission to investigate the genocide charges against Sudan.