Grim Darfur situation shows little improvement, says UN

Ahead of a visit to New York to report to the Security Council on the Darfur conflict in Sudan, the senior United Nations envoy to the country today warned that the situation in the strife-torn region "has not improved much during the past month".

Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, told reporters in Khartoum yesterday that the situation on the ground in Darfur "remains grim, and humanitarian access is limited".

More than 1.65 million people have had to flee their homes to escape either "brutal militia attacks" or fighting between two rebel groups and government forces. Tens of thousands of Sudanese have also been killed or have succumbed to hunger or disease.

Mr Pronk said rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - were responsible for much of the recent violence, which is restricting humanitarian access to many areas within Darfur, a vast and desolate region in western Sudan.

Mr Pronk also briefed reporters on the status of the peace talks taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, between representatives of Khartoum and the SLA and JEM. The talks are being mediated by the African Union (AU), which also has a ceasefire-monitoring mission in Darfur.

Next week Mr Pronk will present his monthly report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council on what Khartoum is doing to meet the pledges it made to the UN earlier this year.

The Sudanese government in July pledged to take steps to disarm the Janjaweed militias considered responsible for the overwhelming majority of attacks against civilians and restore security to Darfur so that its large population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) can return to their home villages.

In mid-September, the Security Council said it would consider imposing measures, including sanctions, if Sudan failed to comply fully with earlier demands to protect civilians in Darfur.


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