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U.N. envoy reports militias still killing in Sudan

Tells U.N. that Sudan government has made headway but not enough

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One of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

Thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Sudan have now crossed into Chad.
African Union
Kofi Annan
United Nations

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United Nations' special envoy to Sudan said Thursday that the African nation's government is making some progress -- but not enough -- in meeting Security Council demands to rein in the catastrophe in the country's Darfur region.

The council passed a resolution for the government to end the disaster in Darfur, considered the worst current humanitarian crisis in the world. International human rights groups estimate from 15,000 to 30,000 black villagers have been killed in brutal attacks by Arab Janjaweed militias -- ostensibly backed by the Sudanese government -- and 1 million have been displaced since fighting began February 2003.

The conflict in Darfur, in eastern Sudan, began last year when black Sudanese rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting Darfur in favor of the Arab population in Sudan.

U.N. special envoy Jan Pronk, in a briefing to the council Thursday, said the situation remains dire and "the government has not met its commitments" in two key areas -- stopping attacks by militia against civilians and failing to take steps to bring militia leaders to justice.

"The humanitarian situation in Darfur is still bleak," Pronk said. "There are major gaps in the provision of food, water and sanitation. Many displaced people are still beyond reach.

"There are no outbreaks of epidemics, but malnutrition and mortality is still high, too high," he said, noting that more assistance, resources and aid volunteers are needed. At least an additional $250 million is needed for relief, he said.

The resolution, passed July 30, said the council "may take action against Khartoum under Article 41 of the U.N. Charter if the authorities do not show after 30 days that they are fulfilling earlier promises to the U.N. to disarm the Janjaweed and restore security. Article 41 measures include unspecified economic penalties and the severing of diplomatic relations."

The 30-day period expired Monday. On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a report calling for a "substantially increased international presence ... as quickly as possible" in Darfur and said the Sudanese government had not met its obligation to stop attacks against civilians.

In his report to the U.N. Security Council, Annan said African Union monitors could help improve the situation "in critical respects: decrease the level of violence and enhance the protection of the civilian population," particularly the displaced.

Pronk claimed some progress, saying the government has been able to "cease all offensive military operations" in the Darfur region and cited an African Union cease-fire panel report saying there was no evidence of government air attacks in mid-August.

After the briefing, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Danforth disputed Pronk's statement that Sudan stopped offensive military operations, saying there has been evidence of air attacks on villages in late August.

Pronk also cited other areas of governmental progress -- improving security in some concentrations of internally displaced persons; deploying more police; disarming a "sizable part of the Popular Defense Force"; removing access restrictions for humanitarian relief; announcing a policy of voluntary returns; accepting international human rights monitoring; mobilizing local leaders to deal with the problem; and pursuing talks with rebels.

But, Pronk said, "in two key areas the government has not met its commitments. First, it has not been able to stop attacks by militias against civilians nor to disarm these militias. Disarming part of the Popular Defense Force is a laudable step, but it is not the same as disarming all militias, including Janjaweed, which are under the influence of the government.

"Second, no concrete steps have been taken to bring to justice or even identify any of the militia leaders or perpetrators of these attacks, allowing violations of human rights to continue in a climate of impunity."

The Popular Defense Force is a government paramilitary group.

The envoy also said the numbers of people fleeing their homes are increasing. And, he said he is concerned about the "critical breakdown of confidence" among internally displaced people toward authorities.

Pronk said the government must be willing to pursue assistance from the international community if it can't protect and help its citizens. Danforth also was supportive of more aid and a larger international presence in the region.

Pronk said "an expanded" African Union mission will help, as indicated by Annan's report. And, he said that the "search for a political solution" under way in the Nigerian capital of Abuja is key. He urged progress in the other talks involving the long-standing civil war in Sudan.

"There can be no end to the suffering in Darfur without a political settlement leading toward sustainable peace."

The conflict in Darfur, in eastern Sudan, began last year when black Sudanese rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting Darfur in favor of the Arab population in Sudan.

The government responded by putting forward the Janjaweed to put down the rebellion. The warring factions recently agreed to a cease-fire but violence between them has continued.

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