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UN Chief: Darfur Violence Continues, Despite UN Efforts

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says four years after the U.N. Security Council first took up the issue of Darfur, the conflict may be worse and the suffering continues.

He said Friday that violence targeting civilians in Sudan's Darfur region continues at an alarming level with no accountability or end in sight. He called the continued suffering in Darfur both unforgivable and preventable.

Mr. Ban said civilians in Darfur are fleeing their homes at a rate of about 1,000 per day and said nearly 2.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes since the conflict began in 2003.

In a separate statement, Mr. Ban told the Security Council that the peacekeeping force in Darfur urgently needs more helicopters if it is going to be effective on the ground.

However, he said he is accelerating the deployment of troops for the joint U.N.-African Union mission, beginning with Egyptian and Ethiopian units.

The United Nations has been trying to secure helicopters for the joint mission in Darfur since last year. U.N. planners say the helicopters are vital if the force is to operate effectively in Darfur, which is the size of France.

Fighting in Darfur broke out in early 2003 when local rebels took up arms against the Arab-led Sudanese government, saying Khartoum had neglected their region.

The fighting has claimed the lives of some 200,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.