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UN envoy arrives in Sudan for Darfur talks

The UN interim special representative for Sudan, Jan Eliasson, arrived in Khartoum with the hope of finding a solution.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 08:24 IST

The UN interim special representative for Sudan, Jan Eliasson, arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday with the hope of finding a solution to fighting in the ravaged western region of Darfur.

Eliasson wants to "contribute to finding a solution in Darfur", the official SANA agency reported, by getting recalcitrant rebels to sign up to a peace deal agreed in May but which only one rebel group has so far inked.

The interim envoy arrived from African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa where he also discussed the violence in Darfur.

Eliasson was expected to hold talks with Sudanese officials during his visit, beginning with Foreign Minister Lam Akol on Wednesday, SUNA reported. He is also expected to travel to Darfur.

New United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has made Darfur his top concern.

Before heading to Ethiopia, the Swedish diplomat stressed the UN's determination to work "hand in hand with diplomacy" with the AU to find a political solution to the conflict.

He said the first step would be trying to reduce the level of violence in Darfur, where the war has killed some 200,000 people and displaced two million more in nearly four years, according to UN figures disputed by Sudanese authorities.

The war in Darfur erupted in February 2003 when rebels from minority tribes in the vast western province took up arms to demand an equal share of national resources, prompting a heavy-handed crackdown from Sudanese government forces and their Janjaweed proxy militia.

The Khartoum government signed a peace agreement in May 2006 with the main faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, led by Minni Minnawi, but others -- including an SLA faction led by Abdel Wahid Nur, and the Justice and Equality Movement -- refused to put their names to the pact.

The United Nations in July called on the government of President Omar al-Beshir to accept the deployment of 20,000 UN peacekeepers to halt the violence in Darfur.

Beshir steadfastly rejected any large-scale UN troop deployment there, but later endorsed a three-phase plan agreed at high-level November meetings in Ethiopia and Nigeria for the deployment of a "hybrid" AU-UN peacekeeping force.

First Published: Jan 10, 2007 08:24 IST