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UN Envoy: Outbreak of 'Intense Violence' Possible in Darfur

The top U.N. envoy to Sudan is warning that the conflict in Darfur could intensify despite the landmark peace deal between Khartoum and rebels in the south.

Special envoy Jan Pronk told the Security Council Tuesday that security conditions in Darfur are bad, and could get worse unless quick action is taken.

After flying directly from Nairobi, where he attended the signing of a peace deal between the government and southern rebels, Mr. Pronk warned that the current stalemate in Darfur peace efforts could lead to an intensification of the war.

"The armed groups are re-arming and the conflict is spreading outside Darfur. Large quantities of arms have been carried into Darfur in defiance of the Security Council decision taken in July," he said. "New rebel movements are emerging and launching attacks in the area of oil facilities in Western Kordofan. We may move into a period of intense violence unless swift action is taken and new approaches are considered."

Mr. Pronk proposed a series of steps aimed at halting the fighting in Darfur. Among them, he suggested that peace talks be de-linked from discussions on humanitarian and security issues. He also proposed that both sides pull back to areas they held in early December as a goodwill gesture.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Mohammed Erwa called the de-linking proposal "interesting", but called on the international community to put more pressure on the rebels.

Washington's U.N. ambassador John Danforth emerged from the Security Council briefing saying urgent measures are needed to prevent another outbreak of killing such as occurred in Darfur last year.

He suggested that former southern rebel leader John Garang - who is to become a vice president in the Sudanese government under terms of the north-south accord - be given a key peacemaking role. The U.S. ambassador also urged the Security Council to use the threat of sanctions to insist on progress on the negotiating front.

"Sanctions are clearly still on table," said Mr. Danforth. "It's important for all parties in Darfur, the government and the rebels, to understand there is a limit to tolerance, and that the fact of sanctions is still something to be considered. Secondly, on the political front, the engagement of John Garang in the Darfur process is very important."

Ambassador Danforth, who previously served as President Bush's special envoy to Sudan, urged the rapid deployment of more African Union troops into Darfur to prevent violence. He also suggested that a U.S. civilian protection monitoring team be given expanded authority to operate in Darfur. The 20-member team is already operating in other parts of Sudan.

Underscoring the fragile conditions in Darfur, Ambassador Danforth said he would favor anything that would protect the lives of innocent people. He said "anything constructive that can be done, should be done.