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Secretary-General Urges Sudan to Commit to Cease-fire

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged Sudan's president to commit to a cease-fire in Darfur and protect humanitarian workers there. His appeal comes ahead of a high-level U.N. meeting on Darfur Friday. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The recent surge in fighting in the Darfur region has raised concerns that it could affect the success of upcoming political negotiations to end the four-year long conflict.

Secretary-General Ban, who recently visited the war-torn region, says he is very concerned about the recurrence of violence.

During a press conference Tuesday, he urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government to manage this path toward peace with utmost care. "This process has been and will be very fragile. The whole international community must nurture this process. For that, he [Bashir] must commit to this cessation of hostilities and protect all humanitarian workers, and humanitarian assistance should be flowing without any hindrance," he said.

The Secretary-General says he has not spoken directly with President Bashir about the recent reports of fighting in northern Darfur between Sudanese forces and Darfur rebels. "I have not directly spoken with President Bashir this time on this issue, but I hope that he has heard my statement and my concern clearly," he said.

Political negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels are due to take place on October 27 in Libya. Mr. Ban is urging all parties to stop the fighting to help create a positive atmosphere for those talks, but one Darfur rebel group, the Sudanese Liberation Army, has said it will boycott the negotiations with the government.

Friday, Mr. Ban and the African Union are hosting a high-level meeting on Darfur. The Secretary-General says he hopes it will lay out a strategy to address deployment of the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, political negotiations and development assistance.