The U.N. Security Council has authorized the initial phase of what is expected to become a peacekeeping mission for southern Sudan. The council also used the occasion to urge an end to a separate conflict in western Sudan.
The Security Council unanimously approved Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to send a U.N. advance team to Sudan. The team's three-month mission will be to assess peacekeeping needs in the southern part of the country, where the government and rebels have committed themselves to ending Africa's longest-running civil war.
In a report issued this week, Secretary General Annan Expressed satisfaction that, in his words, "the Sudanese peace process has come a long way in recent months after years of false dawns."
At the same time, however, he noted continuing violence in some parts of the south, in particular in the Upper Nile region and in a separate conflict in the remote western Darfur region. He described conditions in Darfur as "catastrophic" and said a settlement of that conflict is fundamental to the success of a future U.N. role in Sudan.
U.N. and British Security Council representatives underscored the need for greater attention to Darfur, where pro-government Muslim militias are driving out black African residents in what U.N. officials have called a "scorched-earth policy."
British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said the international community must pay greater attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
"We should take particular recognition of the situation in Darfur and ensure that all of us and the humanitarian agencies play our part to avert any humanitarian catastrophe in that area," he said.
Pakistan's ambassador Munir Akram, one of the few Muslim voices on the Security Council, dismissed the calls for more attention to the political situation in Darfur. Western diplomats say Pakistan and several Arab governments had worked to focus the Sudan resolution on Darfur's humanitarian crisis.
Without naming the United States and Britain directly, Ambassador Akram said countries wanting to help in Darfur should do so with humanitarian aid.
"Those who wish to put Darfur in every resolution, want to make good statements about it. But when it comes to committing money they fall short, so there should be a greater response from these people," he stated.
The civil war in Darfur is said to have driven more than one million black Africans from their homes. More than 100,000 are living in refugee camps in neighboring Chad.
The G8 group of industrialized countries this week urged the Khartoum government to disarm the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. The G8 statement called on both sides to honor a ceasefire signed in April and urged the government to allow humanitarian aid workers greater access to restricted areas where there are reports of widespread ethnically-motivated human rights violations.