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UN envoy worries over escalation of tension in Sudan's Darfur
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The Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Darfur, Jan Eliasson said on Wednesday that he "worried" over an escalation of tension in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

The UN envoy made the remarks following a meeting with Sudanese Presidential Advisor and Chief Negotiator of the Sudanese government on Darfur Nafie Ali Nafie.

"We call on all the parties to hold the responsibility, restrain themselves and respect the exerted efforts," the UN envoy told reporters.

He noted that more preparations were needed for the upcoming round of peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebel groups in Libya on October 27.

Eliasson arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday from Addis Ababa, where he co-chaired with AU Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salem a two-day meeting of UN and AU mediators to finalize preparations for the Darfur negotiations.

After arriving in the Sudanese capital, the UN envoy held a meeting with representatives of leaders of Darfur Arab tribes.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the UN Mission in Sudan ( UNMIS) reported that following the attack taking place on October 8 at Muhajariya, South Darfur State, an estimated 6,000 civilians residing at the town fled northward to seek refuge at a base of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force.

Other residents reportedly fled to neighboring villages and the surrounding areas, leaving the town, which had a population estimated at 20,000 inhabitants, completely deserted, the statement added.

A large number of houses in Muhajariya have been burnt to the ground, as well as several shops in the market.

It quoted unconfirmed reports as saying that tens of civilians were killed and wounded, and tens are missing, including children.

The Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), a former rebel faction led by Mini Arkou Minawi who signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with the Sudanese government in 2006, accused the government troops of launching the attack.

The Sudanese government denied the accusation, saying that the fighting at Mehajaria was a clash between rival tribal armed groups.

The attack at Mehajaria came only ten days after a similar attack on a base of the AU peacekeeping force at Hakanita, South Darfur State, which led to the killing and wounding of some 20 peacekeepers.

Local analysts linked the recent escalation of tension in Darfur with the upcoming peace negotiations, as well as the planned deployment of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in the region by the end of this month.

(Xinhua News Agency October 11, 2007)

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