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Annan Calls for Action in Darfur

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says immediate action is needed to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan's conflict-ravaged Darfur region.

In an opinion piece Friday in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Mr. Annan called Darfur the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

He said hunger and sickness will claim hundreds of thousands of victims unless relief groups get massive and immediate support.

Mr. Annan also called for the strengthening of the overwhelmed African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.

On Thursday, a Sudanese official said his government is open to discussing a proposed United Nations force in the region.

The Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel group signed a peace agreement earlier this month. But two other rebel factions have refused to sign.

An estimated 180,000 people have been killed in Darfur and millions displaced by three years of fighting among rebel groups, Sudanese forces and government-backed "janjaweed" militias.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.