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Security Council Heads to Africa to Pressure Warring Factions in Sudan

U.N. Security Council ambassadors are en route to Africa, hoping to pressure Sudan's warring factions to end two separate conflicts. The Council is preparing a package of incentives to help Sudan once a peace deal is reached.

The 15-member Security Council boarded a plane for Nairobi Tuesday en route to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. There, during two days of meetings, they hope to help finalize an agreement that would end 21 years of civil war between Sudan's Islamic government and a Christian-backed southern rebel group.

The hope is that a settlement of this north-south conflict would pave the way for a resolution of Sudan's other war, in the remote western Darfur region. U.N. officials describe Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis; others call it a case of genocide.

The United States, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, is spearheading the international peace initiative. As he headed for the airport, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Danforth said the visit is intended to show all parties to Sudan's conflict that the world is watching, and that their actions will have consequences.

"It's up to the parties to decide which way they want to go," he said. "If there is peace the international community is going to be with that country in a positive way, in monitoring peace agreements, in a real presence, in providing support for the country in development assistance for the country. We're not simply going to see a peace agreement and then go on to the next subject, this is going to be an ongoing commitment and responsibility of the international community. On the other hand, if the choice of the parties is not peace but continued fighting, if the disaster of Darfur continues, if civilians continue to be victimized then of course the international community is going to continue to be interested, but in a very different kind of way."

The Security Council earlier passed two resolutions threatening sanctions against Sudan's lucrative oil industry unless Khartoum acts to control pro-government Arab militias in Darfur. U.S. and U.N. officials say the Khartoum government has failed to comply with the terms of those measures.

But a separate resolution set for adoption this week in Nairobi would offer Sudan a package of rewards if it accepts a peace deal with southern rebels. The multi-million dollar package includes debt relief and reconstruction funds.

Spain's U.N. Ambassador Juan Antonio Yanez Barnuevo says using carrots instead of sticks, (incentives instead of penalties) could provide the little push Sudan's warring factions need to resolve thorny issues that have stalled Sudan's peace talks.

"It's a way to show those people that the attention of the world is upon them and that if they make that extra effort, they will get real support on the part of the international community, and if not, well, people may lose interest in that issue," he said.

While in Nairobi, the Security Council is expected to meet with Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha as well as the main southern rebel leader John Garang. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is also planning to attend the two-day session.

President Bush was reported to have spoken by phone Tuesday both with Mr. Garang and with Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir. A spokesman said Mr. Bush emphasized in separate conversations the importance of reaching agreement when the two sides resume negotiations later this month.

An estimated 1.5 million people have died since Sudan's civil war broke out in 1983. Some 70,000 others have died and more than 1.5 million have been forced to flee their homes since fighting erupted in Darfur early last year.