The U.N. Security Council has begun two days of meetings in Nairobi to address the ongoing violence in Sudan, amid warnings that Africa's biggest country could spiral into anarchy.
This month's Council president, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, opened Thursday's meeting by pointing out this is only the fourth time since 1952 that the Security Council has held sessions outside U.N. headquarters in New York.
"This is a demonstration of the very strong interest of the Security Council in the situation in Sudan, and a commit by the Council to the future of Sudan, and an expression by the Council that we are there not only today but on into the future to do what we can to assure that Sudan has a strong and viable future," he said.
The Security Council expects to pass a resolution on Friday urging a speedy end to the slow-moving peace negotiations between Sudan and a southern rebel group to end a war that has caused about 1.5 million deaths since 1983.
U.N. diplomats hope a final settlement of the north-south conflict can also lead to a peace accord for the western Darfur region, where 1.5 million people have been displaced in a war between government-backed Arab militiamen and two black rebel groups.
U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, told the Council the government in Sudan appears to be unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens in Darfur, and a grave responsibility has therefore fallen on the Council.
"The conflict in Darfur also demands your attention. The terrible situation in Darfur has been brought about mainly by deliberate acts of violence against civilians, including widespread killing and rape," he said. "Because of the magnitude and the human suffering in the region, the conflict remains a burning concern."
Sudan's chief peace negotiator, Vice President Ali Osman Taha, said his government is committed to peace throughout Sudan.
"We would like to reiterate again today our full commitment to finalizing those negotiations as soon as possible in order to achieve comprehensive peace in southern Sudan and in the entire territory of the Sudan as well," he said.
The leader of the main southern rebel group, John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, said he believes a final settlement in the south can be reach by the end of the year. But he also expressed concern about Darfur.
"Our country is in dire straits," he said. "The situation in Darfur is rapidly degenerating into chaos and anarchy, as the government counter-insurgency policy and campaign in the region has seriously boomeranged and continues to spiral out of control."
Mr. Garang said a comprehensive peace agreement, leading to a broad-based government of national unity, is the best way to prevent anarchy from spreading throughout Sudan.