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UN, AU envoys urge warring sides in Darfur to seek peace
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United Nations and African Union envoys on Tuesday called for more international support for peacekeeping efforts in Darfur, but stressed that only the warring sides themselves can make peace in the region.

"The only people who can make peace in Darfur are the people of Darfur themselves and the government," said Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union's special envoy for Darfur.

"The international community can help, it can encourage, it can persuade, but it cannot impose peace," he told a press conference in Geneva.

Jan Eliasson, the UN's special envoy for Darfur, echoed Salim's remarks. "For peacekeeping to be successful there has to be a peace to keep," he said.

But Eliasson said a quicker deployment of the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force would undoubtedly help promote security in the strife-torn Sudanese region, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003, when rebels began fighting government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.

So far only 9,000 of the required 26,000 peacekeeping troops and police have been deployed in Darfur.

Salim and Eliasson were speaking to reporters following two days of informal consultations in Geneva with regional partners and international observers involved in the Darfur political process.

The consultations were aimed at reviewing the situation in Darfur and exploring ways to promote substantive talks among Darfur's rebel groups and the Sudanese government.

Eliasson said the Geneva talks had been "very constructive," and proof of a "new energy to push the political process forward".

But he admitted the conflicts are rather complicated, as there are different rebel groups with different interests.

"There are rather far-reaching demands that we have to deal with," Eliasson said. "If they don't unify their own movements then we hope at least they will unify positions."

(Xinhua News Agency March 19, 2008)

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