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UN Secretary-General Counsels Patience on Darfur

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is appealing to the Security Council to give him more time to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Darfur before imposing economic and military sanctions on the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir. The secretary-general's appeal was made Sunday at a news conference in Geneva. Lisa Schlein has details.

U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says resolving the crisis in Darfur is one of his highest priorities. He says he believes he has made some progress. He points to a recent commitment from the Sudanese government to let the United Nations deploy several thousand peacekeepers to boost the African Union's 7,000-strong troop level in Darfur.

The secretary-general calls this the first positive signal in five months of serious negotiations with the Sudanese government and says he would like more time to build on this.

"I know that the patience level is going down on the part of the international community. There are some members of the Security Council, particularly the United States and United Kingdom, they have been discussing this - imposing sanctions against Sudan," he said. "But, my position is that when the moment of truth comes, they will know that they will not be faithful in implementing this commitment, then I would leave it to the Security Council members to take necessary measures against Sudan."

The Security Council already has imposed some limited restrictions on arms shipments to Sudan, the rebels and the Sudanese-backed janjaweed militia.

A recently leaked U.N. report describes serious violations of the arms embargo by the government of Omar al-Bashir. It accuses the government of painting a false U.N. insignia on an air force plane, which then was used to deliver bombs. The report calls for more sanctions to be applied and for the imposition of a no-flight zone over Darfur to protect villages from air attack.

Last year, the United Nations and Khartoum agreed on a three-phase stabilization plan for Darfur. Secretary-General Ban says the two parties are in the second phase, which involves the deployment of several thousand U.N. troops. He says he wants to see whether Sudan faithfully implements its part of this agreement before considering more drastic action.

"Since I am new as a Secretary-General, even though you may not have full confidence on President Bashir of Sudan," he added. "But, since he has given me commitment and he has given me for the first time a positive agreement, then let me have some more political space so that I can continue this political process and discussions on this peacekeeping operations in Darfur."

The third and final phase of the plan calls for the deployment of a joint African Union/United Nations force of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers. Until now, the Sudanese government has rejected this hybrid unit and said it would only allow a larger A.U. force with logistical support from the United Nations.

The war in Darfur has killed an estimated 200,000 people, displaced more than 2.5 million people and caused well over 200,000 others to seek shelter in neighboring Chad.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls this unacceptable.