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Annan urges more action on Sudan


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One of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

Thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Sudan have now crossed into Chad.
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on the international community to do more to avert a looming humanitarian tragedy in Sudan.

Annan told media Wednesday there was evidence of "gross and systematic abuse of rights" in the African nation, adding that the Sudanese government was not doing enough to redress the situation.

But the prospect of sanctions or military intervention in Sudan seems unlikely in the near term with the U.N. Security Council deadlocked over the issue.

Annan said it was a "judgment call" on when and what action the U.N. should take, but he warned the Sudanese government was running out of time to act.

The United Nations special representative in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Dutchman Jan Pronk, on Wednesday briefed the U.N. Security Council on reports that Arab militia, called Janjaweed, were continuing to terrorize African villagers in Sudan's west.

A 15-month conflict in the region has killed up to 30,000 people and forced villagers into refugee compounds in the region of Dafur in Sudan and neighboring Chad.

Darfur rebels walked out of African Union-backed peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last weekend over their demands for the Janjaweed to be disarmed ahead of full dialogue.

It is estimated at least 2 million people are now facing a crisis through a lack of food and medicine in the camps and reports of continuing attacks on them by the Janjaweed militia.

"Many are living in sub-human conditions and they fear for their future," Annan said.

He said the Sudanese government had committed to disarming the militia and protect the displaced people in the camps, as well as investigate the reports of human rights abuses.

"I would like to emphasize how essential it is that the government of Sudan honor its commitments, and stop and disarm the Janjaweed and other armed groups," Annan said.

The United States has accused Khartoum of backing the Janjaweed in a campaign of ethnic cleansing marked by burning and looting of villages, murder and rape.

"The international community must hold the government to its solemn pledges and insist that they do perform.

"If they fail to do that, I think the international community cannot sit back. They have to take measures."

So far Sudan has sent 3,000 police to Darfur, allowed in monitors and eased most restrictions on aid groups.

Britain, meanwhile, is drawing up plans for possible military intervention in Sudan, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

"The prime minister has asked to look at all options that will save lives and not to rule out the military services," an unnamed British government official involved in the plans was quoted as saying.

A spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office said there was "nothing recognizable" in the Guardian report, while Britain's Foreign Office said: "We are still very much in the diplomatic phase."


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