The interim U.N. envoy to Sudan is appealing for a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur region, saying only a political solution can resolve the crisis, which has claimed hundreds-of-thousands of lives. Noel King has this report for VOA from Khartoum.

Following his meetings with top Sudanese officials this week, U.N. envoy Jan Eliasson called on all parties to the Darfur conflict to cease hostilities as a prelude to political efforts to reach a lasting peace between government forces and rebels.

"There has to be a peace to keep. For this, we need to try our very best from all corners to encourage a political process," he said. "If we don't reach that goal, then we run the risk of the Darfur tragedy, the Darfur nightmare continuing year after year. There is no military solution for either side."

On Wednesday, the governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, Bill Richardson reported that the government of Sudan and rebel leaders in Darfur had agreed to a 60-day ceasefire.

But Eliasson said he is not certain about the viability of the ceasefire agreement.

"I don't know to what degree the non-signatories in Darfur are fully committed to this," continued Eliasson. "It is not completely clear. I can only say that the United Nations would welcome any effort to reduce the level of violence."

Last year, the Sudanese government and one of the rebel groups in Darfur signed a peace agreement, but two other rebel groups refused to sign.

Darfur's rebel movements have become increasingly fractured in recent months, further complicating efforts to stem violence in the region.

Sudan is under intense pressure to accept a 20,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur. But Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir has likened the world body to colonizers and asked for more financial and logistical support to aid a struggling African Union mission of 7,000 troops.

The Darfur conflict will soon enter its fourth year.

Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias in the region to crush a 2003 rebellion using a savage campaign of rape and murder, targeting civilians.

At least 200,000 people are believed to have died during the conflict, and more than 2.5 million have been displaced.