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UN Official Warns of Potential for Anarchy in Sudan

A senior United Nations official is warning that Sudan could quickly descend into total anarchy, with warlords ruling large areas and the government unable to control its forces. Special envoy Jan Pronk told the Security Council it could be blamed unless it takes prompt action.

Mr. Pronk told the Security Council that while there is some slight progress on the political front in Sudan, conditions in the western Darfur region are alarming, and getting worse.

"Darfur may easily enter a state of anarchy; a total collapse of law and order," he said. "The conflict is changing in character. The government does not control its own forces fully. It co-opted paramilitary forces and now it cannot count on their obedience. The spirit is out of the bottle and cannot be pushed back."

Mr. Pronk, the Secretary-General's envoy to Sudan, urged the Security Council to act quickly. Otherwise, he said, "we may soon find Darfur is ruled by warlords."

He suggested that the two strongly-worded resolutions recently passed by the Council were not enough, and warned that many people would blame the Council if the trend toward chaos is not reversed.

"If the sorrow continues, it is despite these resolutions," he added. "If for instance displaced persons protest and the police and military shoot innocent civilians despite the U.N.'s presence, a drama would develop for which the U.N. would be blamed. If militias and para-military attack unarmed civilians, a massacre would result despite the fact that the protection of civilians was the essential objective of the Security Council. That would be a catastrophe."

An estimated 70,000 people have died in Darfur over the past 18 months. Roughly 1.6 million more have been forced to flee their homes to escape marauding bands of pro-government Arab militia known as janjaweed.

The Security Council was slow to address the matter, and passed resolutions threatening sanctions on Sudan's lucrative industry only after days of rancorous negotiations. Several Council members, including China, Pakistan and Algeria, have opposed the sanctions.

But in a sign of its increasing focus on the Sudan crisis, the Council will meet later this month in Nairobi in an effort to pressure warring factions to reach a peace accord. It will be only the fourth time in more than 50 years that the Council has met outside the New York headquarters.

In the meantime, Council ambassadors are working on a third resolution that would encourage a settlement, while at the same time stepping up the pressure. British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry called it a 'carrot and stick approach'.

"We're putting on the table a carrot that would be available if they do things," he said. "They're not gonna get anything till they do it, but the judgment as to how best to deal with Sudan is partly, as we've always said, this is a government that unless it's under pressure it doesn't seem able to do things. We maintain that pressure, but we also say, but if you deliver, guys, an added incentive would be."

Council diplomats declined to be specific about the proposal, saying it is still in the negotiating stage. But U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said the carrot, or incentive, would involve an international commitment to help Sudan's government once peace is achieved.

"We are, therefore, engaged in the so-called stick aspect, but we want to present the concept of a carrot, namely that the international community will be there for the future of Sudan, assuming that there's peace," said Mr. Danforth.

Ambassador Danforth, however, rejected Special Envoy Pronk's suggestion that the Security Council should be blamed for not doing enough. Speaking to reporters he noted that the problem was that people are being killed, raped and forced from their homes. He said "it's not right to say the blame should be shifted from those who are doing these terrible things to other people living half way around the world."