U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said he will continue to press for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Sudanese province of Darfur.   He acknowledged the difficulties, but said the effort to bring more than five years of war to an end must continue.  

Mr. Ban has been deeply and personally involved in trying to end the war in Darfur since he assumed his post as U.N. secretary-general nearly two years ago.  

But he said he has had to distance himself from these efforts since the International Criminal Court announced its intention to indict Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir for war crimes.

"I would not go further into detail.  This is a rather very politically and legally sensitive issue for me.  Therefore, I have not been able until now to be in direct contact with President Bashir of Sudan," he said.   

Nevertheless, Mr. Ban said efforts to restart the stalled peace negotiations are actively going on and the African Union, United Nations mediator is working hard to meet all the leaders of the fractious parties.

He said considerable progress has been made.  But, regrettably, not enough to move the political dialogue forward.  He said that will require a lot of time and patience.

The war between the Sudanese-supported Arab Janjaweed militia and rebel groups in Darfur erupted in February 2003.

Since then an estimated 300,000 people have been killed or died from war-related problems.  Nearly three million people have become internally displaced or refugees.

Mr. Ban said he does not know whether the International Criminal Court will decide to prosecute President Bashir.  But, whatever the outcome, he said the Sudanese government must continue to work for peace in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government has the responsibility to fully cooperate with the United Nations missions and also fully implement the peace process in accordance with existing agreements," he said.  "And also protect all these civilians and provide the necessary assistance so that humanitarian assistance can be given to those people."   

The United Nations had hoped to deploy some 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur.  But, this has been delayed for lack of cooperation by the Sudanese government.  And, because governments have not come up with the money and equipment needed.

The U.N. secretary-general said he has been informed that 60 percent of the troops will be deployed by the end of the month and up to 85 percent by the end of March.

Mr. Ban cautioned that it might be a bit ambitious to expect that number to be reached by March.  But, he added, the United Nations will do its best to meet that goal.