U.N. seeks resolution in Darfur

By Edith M. Lederer The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced yesterday that he will visit Sudan, Chad and Libya next week to promote a political solution to the conflict in Darfur and test the Sudanese government’s commitment to speedy deployment of a 26,000-strong force in the region.

Ban told a news conference that on his first visit to the region since taking the reins of the U.N. in January he would push the peace process, seek to get a hybrid African Union-U.N. force on the ground quickly and press for delivery of humanitarian aid.

The secretary-general said he chose this time to make the week-long trip because of the “historic opportunity” provided by the U.N. Secuity Council’s adoption of a resolution on July 31 authorizing the hybrid force to replace the beleaguered 7,000-strong AU force in Darfur by year’s end. The resolution was adopted after months of delay in getting agreement from the Sudanese government.

“I want to go and see the very difficult conditions under which our forces will operate,” Ban said. “I want to know, first hand, the plight of those they seek to help.”

“But more, I want to create the foundations of a lasting peace and security. My goal is to lock in the progress we have made so far, to build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day cease,” he said.

More than 200,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million have been displaced in Darfur since ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated central government in 2003, accusing it of discrimination. Sudan is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias responsible for much of the violence – an accusation the government denies.

Ban called the recent escalation in violence in Darfur that has killed hundreds of people in the last few weeks “simply unacceptable.”

“I appeal to the government of Sudan and to all parties to refrain from military action and choose, at this critical juncture … the path of peace and political dialogue,” he said.

Ban said deploying the hybrid force speedily will be “one of the largest and most complex field operations the United Nations has ever undertaken” because of the harsh environment and lack of water and communications. “It cannot succeed without the cooperation of the government of Sudan,” he said.

“This is the time for Sudanese government to fully implement the Security Council resolution,” Ban said.