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UN Secretary-General Says Political Talks Crucial to End Darfur War

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says it is crucial to begin the political process to end the crisis in Darfur. He says he will push to get agreement on stepping up the pace of negotiations, in discussions with political and tribal leaders during a day-long visit to Darfur. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA on the secretary general's on his first visit to El Fasher, Darfur.

A group of soldiers from Gambia welcomed the U.N. secretary-general to the headquarters of the African Mission in Sudan. Ban Ki-moon inspected the guard, to applause by AMIS soldiers who attended the colorful ceremony.

Before arriving in El Fasher, Ban told journalists traveling with him on a plane from Juba, the war in Darfur has gone on for far too long and that the people have suffered far too much.

He says a military solution, alone, will not work. That is why he says it is crucial to step up the political process.

"While we are now on a good track on deploying hybrid peacekeepers -- in fact, we have received more than what we are actually in need of, except those special areas like air transportation and other technical areas," said Ban. "This hybrid operation process should be accompanied by a political process. Otherwise our peacekeepers, or police and civilian workers will have much difficulty in carrying out their role. This is what I am going to do."

The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution calling for the deployment of a 26,000 person hybrid force. The peacekeepers will be composed of troops from the African Union and the United Nations.

In meetings he has lined up with leaders of the African Union, the United Nations, tribal and civil representatives, Ban Ki-moon said he will impress upon them the need to speedily deploy the troops to ensure security in Darfur.

Remarking on his trip to Juba, Tuesday, the secretary-general says he was humbled when he saw the living conditions of people there. He says they are living through a very difficult political situation and they need and deserve international support.

He says he believes peace in Darfur is linked to the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended Sudan's civil war in 2005.

"I came to realize, much more than I thought in New York, the importance and urgency of a smooth implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," said Ban. "It is crucially important that both South and North Sudanese leaders to fully cooperate on the basis of mutual trust to cooperate and implement this CPA."

Political negotiations between the Sudanese government and eight key rebel groups are expected to begin in October. Ban says an exact date and venue for the negotiations soon will be finalized.