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Sudan to Disarm Arab Militias, Annan says - 2004-07-03

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he has received assurances from the Sudanese government that it will disarm Arab militias, blamed for the violence in the western region of Darfur. More than a million people who have been forced from their homes in Darfur now face hunger and disease in what the U.N. describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

U.N. Secretary-General Annan says he has won a promise from the Sudanese government that it will send troops to the western region of Darfur to maintain security around refugee camps, and to disarm the Janjaweed militias, blamed for the region's humanitarian crisis.

In a joint statement by the government and the United Nations, Sudan also pledged to suspend visa restrictions to give humanitarian aid workers freedom of movement throughout Darfur.

The statement was released Saturday, at the end of a three-day visit by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the region.

Human rights groups want the international community to impose sanctions on Sudan, which they accuse of backing the ethnic-Arab Janjaweed militias in their campaign of terror against African civilians.

The Sudanese government denies any complicity in the militia attacks.

Mr. Annan says the Sudanese government must act, or face possible U.N. Security Council action.

"I think we have to take it on good faith, and have a positive expectation of the government," said Mr. Annan. "And if the camps clear, if after a reasonable period that has not happened, the Council will want to take further action. I cannot indicate or say what the Council will do. The government has indicated it will implement the decisions. We will monitor. If there's a problem, we'll get to it. And I'm sure the Security Council will do something about it."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also visited Darfur this week, and said Washington expects the Sudanese government to act within a few weeks.

More than a million people have left their villages for the relative safety of makeshift refugee camps in Darfur, and another 120,000 have fled over the border into Chad, where they still face attacks by the Janjaweed.

Until recently, the Sudanese government allowed little access to aid workers to the remote region, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Both Mr. Powell and Mr. Annan have urged the Khartoum government and the two rebel groups in Darfur to reach a speedy political settlement. The two sides signed a cease-fire agreement last April, but now accuse each other of violating the truce.