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UN Refugee Chief Expresses Fears Over Darfur, Countries Bordering Sudan

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, says he is very concerned that the violence in Darfur is spreading to countries bordering Sudan. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome, where the U.N. official spoke to reporters.

United Nations refugee chief Antonio Guterres says the violence in Sudan has long affected Chad. According to Guterres, UNHCR camps in Chad host 230,000 refugees from Sudan's violence-torn Darfur region. What concerns him now is the possibility that the violence in Darfur is spreading to Chad.

While the refugee camps have not yet been attacked, Guterres says villages in Chad have suffered several attacks in recent days by Sudan's pro-government militia known as the Janjaweed.

"Some of them have been destroyed with people killed, women suffering enormously, all kinds of forms violence," he said.

The latest violence has caused further displacement of people in the area. Guterres says there are already about 50,000 internally displaced in Chad. He adds that it is difficult to know to whether the attacks are being carried out by Chadeans or come from Darfur.

The refugee chief says there are a number of problems that must be taken into account: the activity of rebels in Chad, the clashes between the Sudanese army and the different rebel groups in Darfur and the difficulties of a border that does not correspond to the ethnic reality on the ground

And these problems, Guterres says, lead to fears that the situation in Darfur could destabilize Sudan's neighbors.

"There is an earthquake in the area," he said. "The epicenter is Darfur but the effects can be felt quite far away."

The neighbors that are of most concern are Chad and the Central African Republic. Sudan appeared for the first time on Friday to accept the principle of allowing U.N. troops to help end one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.