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UN: Clashes Persist in Darfur Despite Progress

A senior United Nations official said Thursday there has been some progress in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan, but that violent clashes continue between government and rebel forces.

The head of the joint United Nations/African Union mission in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, told the U.N. Security Council that results in the region have been mixed, despite what he called "our best efforts." In the area of security and the protection of civilians, he said, some progress has been made. But he added that pockets of instability remain.

Gambari said the peace process has progressed, but a deep sense of mistrust remains and some parties are not engaging in the process. He said that clashes between Sudanese government forces and rebel groups have caused substantial civilian casualties, displaced communities and hampered the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement read by his spokesman, Martin Nesirky, he Mr. Ban is concerned about continued clashes in Darfur.

"He is particularly concerned for the safety and welfare of civilians, following reports of injuries and displacements," said Martin Nesirky. "The Secretary-General urges all parties to respect the declared cessation of hostilities and to return to the negotiating table in Doha as soon as possible with a view to achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Darfur crisis."

Talks had been underway in Doha, Qatar between the Sudanese government and various rebel groups to end the fighting in the Darfur region that has claimed the lives of some 300,000 people, according to United Nations estimates.

U.N. official Gambari said that in response to attacks against U.N. and humanitarian personnel in Darfur, he has given firm instructions to his troops and police contingents to respond more robustly. He said such attacks constitute war crimes.