In a fresh initiative to end violence in Darfur, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has invited the US, EU, Russia and China to join him and other African leaders for a meeting this week to discuss the deteriorating situation in the troubled region of Sudan.
The purpose of the meeting would be to "discuss ways in which to address the situation (in Darfur) and move forward the peace process decisively," Chief UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
The discussions are expected to focus on hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur comprising personnel from both African Union (AU) and the world body instead replacing the ill funded and ill equipped AU force, already in Darfur, completely with UN peacekeepers.
Annan's move follows the inability of the 15-member Council to send a delegation to another meeting of Africans in Addis Ababa called for the same purpose because it could not agree on composition of the delegation and the mandate to be given to it.
Senior officials from Egypt, Congo, Gabon and Arab league are also expected to join Thursday's talks in Ethiopia, which are considered crucial as they might provide the last chance to Annan, who retires on December 31, to play an effective role in containing the crisis.
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, UN said, were backed by Sudanese military vehicles.