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UN Secretary-General Presses for Quick Action on Darfur


During a briefing about his just completed two-week trip to Afghanistan and Europe, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says Darfur dominated discussions. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports Mr. Ban says it is time to push the pace of progress.

The secretary-general says he hopes the Security Council will pass a resolution authorizing a hybrid peacekeeping operation within the week.

Last month, Sudan unconditionally accepted an U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, which will include as many as 26,000 military personnel and civilian police. The draft resolution also calls on member states to finalize their contributions to the force within 90 days.

Mr. Ban says this is fast by U.N. standards, but not fast enough.

"The political situation of the ground is too fragile, the humanitarian crisis too dire to waste more precious time," he said.

Sudan objects to the draft resolution's stress on humanitarian issues and the threat of "further measures," possibly sanctions.

Mr. Ban says he intends to accelerate the U.N. timetable to the maximum on both the military and political fronts.

"Working with our many partners, chief among them the African Union, we must start preparing the ground for our peacekeepers immediately," he said. "The Chinese government will soon send a contingent of military engineers to Darfur, where they will begin the essential communications and logistical work that must precede the mission. In fact, a preliminary reconnaissance group leaves for Sudan July 17. I am informed that several hundred international troops, or more, will be ready to deploy by October. I will push for September."

Mr. Ban described initial talks in Libya between diplomats and divided rebel groups as "successful". He said the goal is to step up the pace of negotiations and bring all factions - government, rebels and tribal leaders - to the table by early September to find a political solution.

The secretary-general says he intends to visit Sudan, including Darfur, at the earliest possible moment.