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Security Council to Meet in Africa to Press for Sudan Peace

The U.N. Security Council will travel to Africa next month to focus world attention on the two separate conflicts in Sudan. This will be only the fourth time in more than 50 years the Security Council has met outside New York.

Security Council ambassadors will meet in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi November 18 and 19.

Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Danforth holds the council's rotating presidency in November. He said there will be only one item on the agenda: Sudan.

Ambassador Danforth served previously as President Bush's special envoy to Sudan. He says moving the Council meeting to Africa is intended as a message to Sudan's warring parties that they are on center stage in world affairs.

"It's an opportunity for the Security Council to demonstrate to all sides in Sudan that the international community is not going to go away; that the international community is going to continue to be concerned about that country for the long term," he said.

The visit comes amid hope that talks between Sudan's government and rebels in the western Darfur region may end a conflict that U.N. officials say has displaced more than a million and a half people. The talks opened Monday in Abuja, Nigeria.

The rebels accuse Khartoum of backing Arab militias in a campaign of genocide against black civilians. Sudanese officials deny the claims and blame the violence largely on rebel groups.

The trip by the 15 Security Council ambassadors is also intended as a show of support for efforts to complete a peace deal between the government and southern rebels. The war in southern Sudan has dragged on for 20 years.

Ambassador Danforth said he expects the visit to produce positive developments, not just words.

"There is going to be an outcome," he added. "That's the purpose of going there. The form that it takes and the content of it remains to be seen, but this is an opportunity for the Security Council to paint a picture of the future of Sudan and the future of international participation in Sudan, so in that respect there's a real product that's involved in this."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan named a five-member panel this month to investigate whether genocide has taken place in Sudan.

The U.S. government earlier determined that genocide was taking place, and two U.N. experts recently told the Security Council that war crimes had occurred there on a large and systematic scale.

The Nairobi session will be only the fourth Council meeting outside New York in more than 50 years. The 15-member body met in 1972 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the following year in Panama City, Panama. In 1990, the group held a session at the U.N. offices in Geneva.