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UN Seeks $1.5 Billion in Aid for Sudan Refugees

The United Nations is appealing for $1.5 billion for humanitarian assistance next year in conflict-ravaged Sudan. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports almost half the money will go towards life-saving programs in Darfur, where more than 1.5-million people have been displaced from their homes.

The United Nations, the government of Sudan, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement worked out the program of activities that will be needed to help millions of people next year. It expects these operations to advance the peace process.

The U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, calls 2005 a transition year. It will act as a bridge between war and peace.

He notes a peace agreement will be signed in January ending more than two decades of civil war between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Mr. Pronk says he hopes the peace between the north and the south will encourage similar moves in Darfur.

"There are a number of political consequences of a peace agreement between the north and the south, which would augur well for a political solution also in Darfur," he said. "But, you are right. It is also going into the other direction and countries have made clear to all parties that if the war would continue in Darfur, it will be very difficult for them … to make all the resources available, because you cannot make all the resources available in a very insecure, unstable situation."

A Representative of the rebels, Luka Deng, says he, too, worries because so much needs to be done to return southern Sudan to a state of normality. He says there are eight million people in the south and another 4.5-million refugees and displaced people are expected to return. He says they will need critical long-term assistance.

"But, it is critical also at this juncture, also the issue of Darfur and southern Sudan not to be seen as exclusive of each other," he said. "We know southern Sudan has suffered a great deal. We know also Darfur is coming into a real situation."

About $600 million of the U.N. appeal will be targeted for life-saving operations in Darfur. U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall has just returned from a visit to camps for displaced people in Darfur. He says he saw a high level of fear, insecurity, and destruction. "We need a lot more pressure put on the government of Sudan and these warring parties We need more resolutions, more eyes, more troops coming from the A.U. [African Union], more NGO's [non-governmental organizations] … People need to know that those who commit crimes against humanity will be punished."

In issuing its appeal, the United Nations told donor countries that without life-saving support for millions of vulnerable Sudanese the chances of a lasting peace diminish.