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Sudan accepts Darfur peace deal
A Sudanese woman sits outside her shelter in western Darfur.



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United Nations

(CNN) -- On the deadline set by African Union mediators, Sudan's government agreed Sunday to sign a peace agreement to end violence in its Darfur region, but the rebel movement has so far rejected the plan.

The agreement is the result of several weeks of talks in Abuja, Nigeria, the latest round of negotiations to settle the Darfur conflict which erupted more than three years ago.

Salim Ahmed Salim, the chief African Union mediator on Darfur, said he hoped the rebels would accept the deal, saying "we are very close" to an agreement.

"We are making every effort right now to try and overcome the concerns expressed by the [rebel] movement," Salim told CNN.

"But we do sincerely believe that the signing of this agreement by the government of Sudan is a significant event because it commits them to some specific measures, especially in the security area and if these measures are implemented, it will provide certainly a tremendous relief for the people of Darfur."

'Lack of security'

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told CNN "the key to all this humanitarian concern is the lack of security."

"Women who have to get out of the camps to select firewood are subjected to rape and all kinds of sexual violence," Arbour said. "So there is no security on the ground, which also prohibits access by humanitarian actors, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], the U.N., for delivery of essential services."

The rebel movement has expressed several concerns, including how the peace agreement deals with the sharing of power.

The crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of nearly 2 million people since February 2003, when people in that region began to rebel against state authority.

The government launched a campaign to put down the rebels, and the fighting has created the refugee crisis and casualties.

The Janjaweed, an Arab militia, has carried out numerous attacks against ethnic black Africans amid the fighting, including raping and pillaging villages.

The militia is accused of widespread atrocities with the support of the government.

Drought has also complicated the problem.

The United States has called the situation "genocide," a label the United Nations has been reluctant to use because of the legal implications.

Rice: World must do more

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Abuja agreement "a little progress" and urged the international community to do more to ensure that a peace agreement holds in Darfur.

"There must be a more robust security force. We stand ready to support that force," Rice said.

The U.N. Security Council agreed in March to extend its mission in Sudan for at least six months, until September 24, as well as to speed up preparations to expand the operation by taking over the African Union peacekeeping effort.

The United Nations created a mission in Sudan in March 2005, but the Sudanese government in Khartoum has not been supportive of its presence. Earlier this month, the Sudanese government turned back a plane carrying U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, a move that drew protests from the United Nations.

Rice said the U.S. "has been by far the most active and the most forward-leaning" on the issue of Darfur, and pressed for more support from the international community.

"We need more help from China and Russia, which I think need to look at what is going on there and ask what more they can do," Rice said.

China and Russia opposed sanctions handed down by the U.N. Security Council last week against four individuals accused of war crimes in Darfur.

Rice added that the United States needs "to make sure that the African Union acts expeditiously to take advantage of the help that is being offered by the United Nations and by NATO."

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