U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging the Security Council to move faster to deal with what he calls the "appalling situation" in Sudan's Darfur region. Mr. Annan has asked for more peacekeepers on the ground in Darfur.
Mr. Annan says he requested the private meeting with Council members because current efforts by humanitarian groups and African Union troops are not enough to stem the tide of violence in Darfur. His comments were read to the media by deputy U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
"We keep getting reports, which show that the killing and the raping and burning are still going on" said Stephane Dujarric. "I was glad to hear from Council members that they hope to have a new resolution in the course of this week that would include agreement on a mechanism for holding individuals accountable for these dreadful crimes. That is good. We must send a clear message that the world is not going to tolerate them. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that a strong international presence on the ground is crucial. Where the African Union troops are, things are getting better for the population. But there are far too few of them."
The African Union has a contingent of fewer than 2,000 troops monitoring a frequently-violated cease-fire in Darfur, in the western part of Sudan, between the government-backed Janjaweed militia and rebel fighters.
Mr. Annan says the Security Council must decide whether to help the African Union increase its troops, or send a U.N. force to work alongside them. But, he says, the participants at the meeting also agreed that, if U.N. troops are needed in Darfur, they should not be taken from U.N. peacekeeping forces already in Sudan to monitor the recent peace accord between the North and the South in a separate conflict. Consequently, Mr. Annan is urging donor nations to quickly honor their promises of aid for the peace process.
The U.N. leader said he welcomes the thousands of letters he is receiving from the public and pressure from the media urging stronger action on Darfur. An estimated 70,000 people have been killed and nearly two million people displaced since the Darfur conflict began in 2003.