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Darfur Conflict Enters Dangerous Phase

A Senior U.N. Official says the four-year conflict in Darfur has entered a particularly dangerous phase. He says U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will push for political talks to end the war and for continued humanitarian assistance in discussions with government officials this week in Sudan. Lisa Schlein is traveling with the Secretary-General and reports for VOA from Khartoum.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will push his peace agenda for Darfur during a private dinner with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. The Secretary-General's special envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, tells VOA the visit comes at a crucial moment.

He says U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769, which calls for the deployment of an African Union/United Nations hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur is a sign that the world wants to end the violence there. He says some progress also has been made in bringing the different rebel movements together.

Eliasson says it is important to build on this progress and get the peace negotiations underway. "If we do not achieve this beginning of the political process, there is reason to be very concerned about the situation of the camps where frustration and anger is mounting. And, also due to the fact that many of the villages are being re-occupied by people who do not own that land. And, this is like a ticking bomb. We need to stop that process and instead move to the political talks, which in turn would mean the beginning of normalization of the situation on the ground," he said.

Eliasson says various groups from outside Darfur are settling on land that belongs to people who were forced to flee. He says this is bound to create problems when the internally displaced people return to claim their land.

He says tribal clashes are increasing and have become more frequent and deadly than fighting between government-backed Janjaweed militia and the rebel groups.

The Special U.N. envoy says the Secretary General will push his three-point plan to tackle Darfur while he is in the region this week.

These elements include peacekeeping, political talks and aid. But, he cautions against raising expectations. He says the situation in Darfur is enormously difficult and complicated and things can and have gone wrong. "But, the fact that he comes here and pushes for the full and quick deployment of the peacekeeping troops will have an effect I am sure. We could have a more rapid presence in Darfur of the International community's peacekeeping efforts. He will certainly push very hard I know for the political process to start very soon. He will also make sure that we will have continued access for the humanitarian operations," he said.

Eliasson says Mr. Ban also will discuss the importance of pursuing economic development and recovery after four years of war in Darfur.