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Sudan Crisis Highlighted During Ivory Coast Peace Talks - 2004-07-30

The heads of state of 13 African nations and United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan veered away from the intended topic of Ivory Coast at their summit in Accra, Ghana, Friday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Sudan.

During a break in discussions concerning the political impasse in Ivory Coast, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo says, the topic of conversation switched gears to discuss the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

"On Darfur, I sent a fact-finding mission to Darfur, which came back only three days ago," he said. "I got that mission to report to us here today, and what they found is that some form of deterioration from where things were when we met at Addis Ababa at the beginning of the month."

The delegation sent by President Obasanjo was headed by former Nigerian President Abdulsalam Abubakar.

Fighting in the western Darfur region of Sudan has displaced an estimated one million people, and plunged the country into what has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Pro-government Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, are accused of killing thousands of black African farmers in Darfur. The international community has been pressuring the Sudanese government to protect the civilian population, which is suffering from lack of food and aid. They also want the government to disarm the militias.

President Obasanjo says the African Union has already agreed to send troops to the region, but that even more are needed. "So, we are calling on the government of Sudan to play its role, its role of protecting all the people in Sudan."

President Obasanjo says he is appealing to the international community to assist in providing humanitarian aid to Darfur.