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UN's Ban Accuses Sudan of Blocking Human Rights Mission

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Sudan's president of breaking a promise to allow a human rights mission to visit Darfur. VOA's correspondent at the U.N. Peter Heinlein reports.

Mr. Ban says he is disappointed by Sudan's refusal to grant visas to a U.N. human rights mission seeking to investigate alleged atrocities in the Darfur region.

The six-member U.N. delegation was scheduled to arrive in Khartoum Tuesday. But Sudan's government objected to the presence of Guyanese official Bertrand Ramcharan on the team. Ramcharan, a former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has in the past referred to the conflict in Darfur as genocide - a term rejected by Khartoum.

Secretary-General Ban told reporters Thursday that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir had assured him when they met last month in Addis Ababa that the delegation would be granted visas.

"This is the issue I discussed with President Bashir during my meeting with him in Addis Ababa," he said. "He said he would issue visas to the fact-finding mission. He said he would have no problem. I am very much disappointed by the decision of the Sudanese government."

Mr. Ban urged Sudanese officials to cooperate fully with the unanimous decision of the Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding team to Darfur.

The U.N. chief also said he is awaiting a report from his special envoy to Darfur Jan Eliasson of Sweden on formation of a hybrid U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur. He told reporters he is concerned that conditions are worsening as President Bashir stalls for time.

"This continuing deteriorating situation in Darfur is just unacceptable, and I'm still awaiting an official reply from President Bashir to my letter of 24 January, which outlines our detailed positions on force generation, command and control and funding," he said. "With an affirmative answer, we can pave the way immediately to the introduction of an AU-U.N. hybrid mission."

Mr. Ban's letter last month sought Sudan's acceptance of a 2,300-strong hybrid force that would be incorporated with the 7,000 African Union troops currently on the ground in Darfur. In the face of fierce diplomatic pressure, President Bashir accepted the idea in principle, but he has balked at implementing it.

Experts estimate at least 200,000 people have died during four years of fighting between Darfur rebels and Arab militias backed by the Sudanese government.