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UN Chief to Visit Sudan Next Week

United Nation's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday formally announced his plans to travel to Sudan next week. From VOA's United Nation's bureau, Suzanne Presto reports on the U.N. chief's three-point plan for Sudan's Darfur region.

Mr. Ban says he will travel to Sudan, including the capital Khartoum as well as the restive Darfur region, from September 3-6. It will be Mr. Ban's first trip to Sudan as secretary general. The visit comes as the United Nations and African Union prepare for a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, authorized last month by Security Council resolution 1769. "I want to go and see for myself the very difficult conditions under which our forces will operate. I want to know firsthand the plight of those they seek to help. But more, I want to create the foundation of a lasting peace and security," he said.

Mr. Ban says he is deeply concerned about a recent escalation in violence in Darfur, where a wave of attacks and bombardments have killed hundreds of people in the past few weeks. "I appeal to the government of Sudan and to all the parties to refrain from military action and choose, at this critical juncture marked by the adoption of Security Council resolution 1769, the path of peace and political dialogue," he said.

Mr. Ban says the agreement to send a peacekeeping force, combined with political dialogue within Sudan, present a historic opportunity that must be seized.

He laid out his three-point action plan for Darfur, focusing on peacekeeping efforts, humanitarian aid, and the quest for a long-term political solution.

Mr. Ban says the joint U.N.-A.U. force, comprised of more than 25,000 military and police personnel, is one of the most complex field operations ever undertaken by the United Nations. He says he will seek the Sudanese government's full support when he meets with President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.

Mr. Ban commended efforts to reach a political solution on Darfur, specifically recent talks in Tanzania among opposition leaders, and the Sudanese government's willingness to negotiate. "My aim is keep up the momentum, to push the pace among the parties with a view toward issuing invitations to a full-fledged peace conference by the end of summer," he said.

On the humanitarian front, Mr. Ban is calling on the international community to help organize efforts to build roads and develop communications, health, education and sanitation systems in Darfur. He says this is required for sustained economic development.

Mr. Ban says he will address broader peace efforts, including the comprehensive peace agreement between north and south Sudan, when he visits Juba in southern Sudan. Following his trip to Sudan, Mr. Ban will visit Chad and Libya.