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Bush, Annan call for end to Sudan fighting

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CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush demanded Wednesday that the Sudanese government end mass fighting with rebels, calling the African nation's civil war "one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of our time."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in Geneva, Switzerland, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, said ethnic cleansing may be under way in part of Sudan.

If international aid workers are not allowed into the region, "appropriate action" must be taken swiftly, he said, according to a transcript of his speech provided by the United Nations. He added that such a move could include international military intervention -- but only as a last resort.

Bush, in a statement from his ranch near Crawford, did not suggest any military involvement to stop the violence.

He warned that the U.S. government "will move toward normal relations with the government of Sudan only when there is a just and comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the SPLM," the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Movement.

"New fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan has opened a new chapter of tragedy in Sudan's troubled history. The Sudanese government must immediately stop local militias from committing atrocities against the local population and must provide unrestricted access to humanitarian aid agencies," Bush said. "I condemn these atrocities, which are displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, and I have expressed my views directly to President [Omar] Bashir of Sudan."

He added, "The government of Sudan must not remain complicit in the brutalization of Darfur. This civil war is one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of our time, responsible for the deaths of 2 million people over two decades."

Bush also said the Sudanese government "must cooperate fully in the war against terrorism."

Violence in the oil-rich Darfur region has raged for more than a year. Rebel groups accuse the government of arming Arab militias to carry out attacks in the region. The government has refused outside military intervention, although rebel groups have said they would welcome such forces.

In Geneva, Annan said, "The United Nations emergency relief coordinator reported to the Security Council that 'a sequence of deliberate actions [in Darfur] has been observed that seem aimed at achieving a specific objective: the forcible and long-term displacement of the targeted communities, which may also be termed ethnic cleansing.'

Annan said the international community "cannot stand idle."

"At the invitation of the Sudanese government, I propose to send a high-level team to Darfur to gain a fuller understanding of the extent and nature of this crisis, and to seek improved access to those in need of assistance and protection," he said. "It is vital that international humanitarian workers and human rights experts be given full access to the region, and to the victims, without further delay.

"If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action."

He continued, "By 'action' in such situations, I mean a continuum of steps, which may include military action. But the latter should always be seen as an extreme measure, to be used only in extreme cases."

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