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Annan: New Approach Needed for Darfur Crisis

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling for a reassessment of efforts to end the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, saying the current strategy has failed. Mr. Annan rejected a U.S. suggestion that he pay another visit to Darfur to move the peace process forward.

With 70,000 people dead in Darfur over the past 20 months and 1.8 million forced from their homes and the numbers of internally displaced people (known as IDPs) rising by the week, Secretary-General Annan urged the Security Council to re-think its peacemaking strategy.

"Quite frankly, our approach is not working," he said. "The situation is deteriorating, the IDPs are suffering, the African Union has not been able to put in as many forces as we had hoped, and they need desperate help."

The members of the Security Council have tried several ways of stopping the violence in Darfur, but with limited success. They authorized a four thousand strong African Union force, but actual deployment has fallen far short of the goal.

The council has also threatened sanctions against Sudan's lucrative oil industry. But several council members, including China, which imports Sudanese oil, have expressed strong reservations about the value of sanctions.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya noted there are two sides to the Darfur conflict, the government and the rebels. He said to be effective, sanctions must target both sides equally.

"Clearly there are problems in Darfur, and clearly the troubles are being made from both sides," he noted. "So if we need to put more pressure, this pressure has to be balanced, on both sides, should not target one side."

The Security Council this week issued a statement warning that it would consider what was described as "a full range of options" for applying pressure on Sudan's warring factions.

While some have suggested an arms embargo, U.N. diplomats say embargoes are difficult to enforce. Secretary-General Annan Wednesday said the council might also consider penalties against individuals involved in the Darfur killings.

"What other measures can we take to put pressure on the parties and hold some of the individuals who are responsible accountable, hold them individually accountable, for us to be able to move forward? These kinds of decisions and actions have to be decided here and taken here," he added.

Mr. Annan ruled out a trip to Sudan in the near future, saying the necessary strategic reassessment must be done in New York.

On Tuesday, Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Stuart Holliday, referring to conditions in Darfur as "disturbing", suggested the secretary-general re-visit the region to give impetus to the peace process. A visit by Mr. Annan earlier this year resulted in greater access for humanitarian aid workers.