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Aid Conference Seeks $2 Billion for Darfur

Islamic nations led by Egypt are seeking to raise $2 billion for reconstruction efforts in Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference is holding a one-day meeting in Cairo with the goal of funding health, housing, water and agricultural projects in Darfur.

Addressing delegates Sunday, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit asserted that the basic issue in Darfur is one of development, and that any solution to the conflict must include raising the standard of living in the region.

Gheit welcomed the cease-fires between Sudan's government and two major Darfur rebel movements. He urged all parties to work toward a fair, comprehensive, and final peace deal.

Many Western and Asian nations are represented at the conference. However, the French news agency AFP quotes two Western diplomats as saying they cannot make pledges because of uncertainty how the money will be used.

Darfur rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003. Fighting has largely died down during the past year though occasional fighting continues.

The United Nations says the violence has killed up to 300,000 people and displaced some 2.7 million others. Sudan puts the death toll much lower, at 10,000.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes against Darfur's population.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.