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Sudan: Annan calls for high-level meeting on Darfur as militia attacks kill some 40 people

Sudan: Annan calls for high-level meeting on Darfur as militia attacks kill some 40 people

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a high-level meeting in Ethiopia this week involving the United States, European Union, Russia and China to discuss the deadly violence in Darfur, a United Nations spokesman said.

The announcement came as the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported nearly 40 civilian deaths in the last few days in attacks in Darfur by Arab militiamen – some of whom were backed by Sudanese military vehicles.

Along with the five permanent members of the Security Council and the European Union, Mr. Annan and the Chairman of the African Union also invited representatives from Congo, Gabon, Egypt, and the League of Arab States to the meeting in Addis Ababa that starts on Thursday, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Mr. Annan will attend the meeting as will representatives of the Sudanese Government, Mr. Dujarric said, adding that its purpose will be to “discuss ways in which to address the situation and move forward the peace process decisively.”

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Heidi Annabi, is currently in Addis Ababa after visiting Sudan where he held weekend meetings with President Omar Hassan Al Bashir and with the defence and foreign ministers. UNMIS said his discussions focused on Darfur, including the UN’s support package for the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS).

The security situation continues to be volatile in all of Darfur’s three states, with a number of reported deadly militia attacks on civilians, violent acts of banditry and clashes between Government and rebel forces in the past few days, UNMIS has reported.

In North Darfur on Friday, UNMIS said Arab militias attacked three villages, killing six civilians including four children, while in West Darfur, 300 armed militiamen backed by 18 military vehicles attacked camps for the internally displaced in the village of Sirba, killing 31 people and injuring 18 others, including women and children.

The Mission also said the attackers burned down almost 100 houses and, following this incident, 10 international non-governmental organization (NGO) staff members were relocated to El Geneina.

In a related development, Mr. Annan’s latest report to the Security Council on Darfur, covering the month of September, deplores the increasing violence and repeats calls on all sides to negotiate, adding that UN efforts to strengthen the African Union force on the ground will not solve the underlying problem.

“Even as efforts to strengthen AMIS continue, it is important to reiterate that a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the crisis will come only through a broadbased political settlement, which will require the complete commitment of the Government and the rebel movements.”

“This settlement will be achievable only if discussion and dialogue replace the bombings, attacks and counter-attacks of the last two months… The suffering of the Darfurian population has lasted far too long.”

Some 200,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur as a result of the conflict between Government forces, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy, and more than 2 million others have been displaced. However the Government has rejected the expansion of UNMIS to Darfur and at present the UN assists AMIS.

Mr. Dujarric said today that the UN was continuing to strengthen the African Union mission with a $21 million package that has the support of the African Union and the Sudanese Government.