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Ban Ki-moon voices concern over violence in West Darfur between rebel group, Government

Ban Ki-moon voices concern over violence in West Darfur between rebel group, Government

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his deep concern today over the resumption of hostilities between a rebel group and Government forces in West Darfur.

He spoke out against a 29 December attack by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on Government positions in Silea, north of El Geneina, "as well as JEM's publicly-stated intention to use force to address its concerns in Darfur," according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mr. Ban also voiced concern with the Government's arrest - which took place on the premises of African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) premises - of Major General Bashir, the JEM representative to the Darfur Ceasefire Commission, along with five other JEM members on 30 December in El Fasher.

The Secretary-General said that he "strongly urges all parties to show restraint and cease all military action in order to create a positive atmosphere for political negotiations leading to a definitive and inclusive peace agreement."

Yesterday, General Martin Luther Agwai, the Commission's Chairman, noted these arrests with great concern, and has been in contact with both sides in a bid to de-escalate tensions and ensure the safe release of the JEM representatives.

AMIS troops exchanged their green headgear for the UN's blue beret today, when authority was transferred to the new AU-UN Mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID.

Authorized by the Security Council in July, UNAMID will have some 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police and civilian staff at full deployment. Currently, there are more than 9,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 7,000 troops and 1,200 police serving with the AMIS, as well as UN soldiers and police officers serving as part of the UN's "heavy" and "light support packages."

In a message to the handover ceremony, Mr. Ban emphasized the need for troop and police contributing countries to deploy their personnel as quickly as possible.

"If we are to have a real impact on the situation on the ground within the first half of 2008, these deployments must happen far more swiftly than they have done so far," the Secretary-General said in a statement read out by Joint UN-AU Special Representative and Head of UNAMID Rodolphe Adada.