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UN Calls for Support, Protection of Relief Workers in Sudan - 2004-06-14

The U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has appealed for greater international attention to the plight of civilians in western Sudan. Mr. Egeland also pointed to 19 other conflict zones where humanitarian access is either denied or obstructed.

Mr. Egeland says 10 years after the world woke up to the massacres in Rwanda, not nearly enough progress has been made in protecting civilians in conflict zones.

In an address to the Security Council, Mr. Egeland cited 20 examples, from West Africa to the Congo and northern Uganda, to the Middle East and Haiti.

But he singled out Sudan's western Darfur region for special concern. "We were largely prevented from entering Darfur with our relief workers until the last few weeks," he said. "We are making progress in terms of food and shelter, but we are desperately behind in others. We may need your help."

More than 30,000 people have been killed and at least a million others have been driven from their homes since war broke out in Darfur 16 months ago.

A U.N. report last month accused Sudan's government of supporting Arab militias carrying out what was described as a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation against African tribes in Darfur. The Security Council responded with a statement calling for the Khartoum government to respect its commitment to control the militias.

Sudan denies backing the militias, known as Janjaweed, and describes the rebels as outlaws.

The United States and Britain have worked to place the Darfur crisis on the Security Council's agenda. But the effort has encountered resistance from Arab and African governments as well as Russia.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham complained to the Security Council Monday that the Khartoum government is continuing to hamper the efforts to get humanitarian aid and workers to Darfur. "Unfortunately, the government continues to deny release of vehicles needed by humanitarian relief agencies," he said. "It has also in some cases denied release of radio equipment needed for workers to securely deploy to remote areas to deliver aid. In addition, the government has also delayed food shipments from Port of Sudan, potentially to the point of making the food useless."

The Security Council session follows passage last Friday of a British-sponsored resolution that authorized the initial phases of a peace-keeping mission to southern Sudan. The resolution took no action with regard to the crisis in Darfur, but noted that urgent measures are needed to resolve the conflict there.