The UN Security Council held closed consultations Tuesday by receiving a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno on recent initiatives by UN chief Kofi Annan on Darfur.
Guehenno told reporters after he left the council that a week of intense diplomatic activity was underway, including the meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday that the United Nations announced on Monday.
"In recent weeks ... the facts are that we have seen an intensification of such military operations, that needs to stop," he said.
"That emphasis on a political process, and as the basis of a political process on an immediate ceasefire, that's something fundamental. This is an issue that was raised by several members of the council and we at the United Nations believe strongly that it is a top priority today," said the top UN peacekeeping official.
He said Monday's high-level meeting in Ethiopia involving Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi and senior Sudanese officials, had focused on UN support to the African Union mission in Darfur, and further discussions this week would follow up.
Annan and the African Union have invited Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain -- the permanent members of the Security Council -- as well as Congo, Gabon, Egypt, the European Union and the Arab League to attend a high-level meeting on the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan, the United Nations announced Monday.
Guehenno stressed that a real ceasefire in Darfur is as important as the deployment of a force there, and warned that the intensification of military activity needs to stop.
There is a need for "a solid political process, backed by a solid peacekeeping force," he added.
The council adopted a resolution in late August to send up to a 20,000-strong UN force to Sudan's Darfur region to take over from the underfunded 7,800 AU forces in Darfur.
But the Sudanese government has been adamantly opposed to the proposed UN deployment, saying beefing up the current AU forces would be the most suitable solution to the Darfur issue.
(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2006)