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UN Envoy Assessing Human Rights in Sudan

A top U.N. envoy is in Sudan to assess the human-rights situation in the embattled nation. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is to meet with government officials and human rights groups, and will tour the western Darfur region, meeting with community leaders, and visiting camps for the displaced.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has arrived in Sudan, amid increasing concern over the humanitarian situation in Darfur.

Louise Arbour is to meet with government officials from both northern Sudan and the autonomous southern government, before traveling to Darfur to meet with officials and rights groups in the region.

Arbour has previously criticized the actions of the Sudanese government in Darfur.

U.N. Human Rights Commission spokesman Jose Diaz says the visit is intended, in part, to confront the government of Sudan on what it has done to improve the situation in Darfur.

"The high commissioner was in Darfur a year-and-a-half ago. And, this time, she is coming to see the situation now, and to see how it has evolved since then," he said. "What she saw at that time was extremely alarming. What we have seen since then, at least the reports we are getting from our human rights monitors, is that the situation has, in some cases, stagnated or worsened. She is going to speak very plainly and very forcefully about the situation, and try to get from them what they plan to do, and what they have done to address the situation."

Arbour's visit follows an attempted visit by Jan Egeland, U.N. under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, earlier this month. Egeland was denied entry into the country, even though he had a valid visa.

Egeland later suggested he was being blocked from Sudan, in order to prevent him from seeing how badly the situation in Darfur had deteriorated.

Human rights commission spokesman Diaz says Arbour has not faced any restrictions.

The crisis in Darfur spiraled further out of control this month, after rebels swept through Chad and launched an attack on the Chadian capital of Ndjamena, in an attempt to unseat President Idris Deby.

Mr. Deby lashed out at Sudan, cutting diplomatic ties, and charging that the rebels had received support from Khartoum.

The Darfur conflict began when rebels rose against the Khartoum government, complaining of economic and political marginalization. The government armed militias now known as Janjaweed to crush the rebellion.

Tens of thousands have died, and about two million more have been displaced as a result of the fighting.