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UN Hears Upbeat Report on Sudan

The U.N. envoy to Sudan reports good progress in bringing the country back from what a year ago was being called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Violence in Darfur is declining, while peace in the south of Sudan is holding. But the envoy described conditions in the region as "fragile".

Briefing the Security Council Friday, Special Envoy Jan Pronk said a peace agreement signed in January by the Khartoum government and southern rebels appears to be having a "snowball effect." He expressed hope the agreement could lead to further accords in the war-torn Darfur region by the end of the year.

Mr. Pronk praised the work of African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, saying their work had succeeded in quelling violence. "Militia attacks on villages have decreased. The humanitarian situation in camps has improved. The monthly number of deaths due to violence is still high, much too high -- 100 to 300 -- but substantially lower than in the period before the adoption of the first Security Council resolution on Darfur in July last year, when mass attacks had led to mass killings," he said.

Mr. Pronk said the daily death rate in Darfur had been cut in half in the past year, bringing it below the emergency threshold.

At the same time, he said the number of people affected by the conflict has nearly tripled in the past year. He described conditions as "delicate," marked by frequent human rights violations and a suffocating environment of intimidation and fear. "Banditry has increased and become ferocious. Attacks can flare up. Militias have not been disarmed. Arbitrary arrests and inhuman treatment of prisoners still takes place. Rape also continues," he said.

Mr. Pronk estimated that $2 billion in immediate aid would be needed to keep Sudan moving away from the path of war and poverty. So far, he said, only $800 million, or about 40 percent of that total has been committed.