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Annan Warns of "Intense Violence" in Western Sudan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that the security situation in Sudan's troubled western region, Darfur, is worsening and with more insurgent movements emerging, violence could get intense there.


"Large quantities of arms have been carried into Darfur in defiance of the Security Council decision taken in July. A build-up of arms and intensification of violence, including air attacks, suggest the security situation is deteriorating," Annan said in a monthly report to the Security Council.


"I am concerned that we may move into a period of intense violence unless swift action is taken," he warned.


Darfur has been mired in a conflict since February 2003, when Sudan's Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against the Sudanese government. The conflict has killed at least 30,000 people and driven more than 1.4 million out of their homes, according to UN estimates.


The Security Council has threatened to slap an arms embargo and economic sanctions on Sudan if the Sudanese government fails to stabilize the situation in Darfur, a region the size of France. But the peace talks between the government and the rebels remains deadlocked, and the rebels abandoned a truce in December.


"The pressures on the parties to abide by their commitments are not having a perceptible effect on the ground. This leads me to conclude that we need to reconsider what measures are required to achieve improved security and protection," Annan said.


He added that all parties must be persuaded "by a combination of pressure and assurances from influential member states, that it is truly in their interests to pursue a settlement."


According to the report, both the government and the rebels are building up their forces in Darfur, bordering Chad, and some new rebel movements are emerging and attacking oil facilities in the region.


Annan's special representative to Sudan, Jan Pronk, is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the report on Tuesday.


The Sudanese government is due to sign a comprehensive peace agreement with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Sunday. The Security Council has indicated its readiness to consider sending UN peacekeeping troops to help the two sides implement the landmark accord.


The council promised to take Darfur into account in creating the new peacekeeping operation. Currently, however, there are only hundreds of observers from the African Union in the region monitoring the situation, well short of the 3,000 troops it pledged.


(Xinhua News Agency January 8, 2005)


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