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UN to Host Donors' Conference for Darfur Region of Sudan - 2004-06-01


The United Nations is hosting a donors' conference in Geneva Thursday to try to coordinate relief efforts in the troubled Darfur region of western Sudan. The Bush administration says more people are at risk of dying from starvation or violence in Darfur than anywhere else in the world today.

More than a year of fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels from the Sudanese Liberation Movement in Darfur has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians. Over one million people have been driven from their homes and about 100,000 have fled across the border to camps in Chad.

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Andrew Natsios, told a Foreign Press Center briefing in Washington Tuesday that in order to help the people in Darfur aid workers need three things: an end to atrocities by government-backed militia, access to remote areas and the mechanisms to deliver relief.

?If we have these three things, we can avoid a catastrophe,? he said. ?If we do not, we will have a very large scale loss of life by this fall. People are already beginning to die in some of the camps.

The United States helped broker the April ceasefire that has ended much of the fighting in Darfur. Mr. Natsios said that Washington has been holding talks with both sides, urging continued restraint to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies. ?The more people who die, the more bitter will be the memories, the more difficult it will be to have a political settlement which is the only solution,? he added.

The United States has already contributed more than $97 million in aid and refugee assistance to Darfur and eastern Chad since early 2003. It is part of a multinational humanitarian effort that also includes contributions from France, Germany, Pakistan and Denmark.