UN expresses Darfur alarm
Khartoum - The United Nations Security Council ended a controversial tour of Sudan on Saturday by signalling growing alarm over the Darfur war, but saying a self-determination referendum in South Sudan could still be held on time.
The four-day visit by the 15 ambassadors and top representatives on the council drew angry street protests as well as warnings from Sudanese leaders over international action in Africa's biggest country, which now faces a looming breakup.
The mission made its most alarming comments about Darfur, where the United Nations estimates at least 300 000 people have died since the war started in 2003. Peace talks between the government and rebel groups are floundering.
"The Security Council remains deeply concerned about human insecurity in Darfur, the suffering of the people," said British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, reading a statement on behalf of the council.
"There is an urgent need for a successful peace process and we continue to urge the rebel forces to join" negotiations that have been conducted in Qatar. The council called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities".
Fears have been expressed that a new civil war could erupt in Sudan if a scheduled January 9 referendum in southern Sudan and the nearby Abyei region is delayed or overshadowed by violence.
The votes are part of a peace accord, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, reached in 2005 to end two decades of civil war in which two million people died.
"We heard strong commitment both in Juba and in Khartoum, from the government of southern Sudan and from the government of Sudan, to implement fully the terms of the CPA, and the need for the referendum to be on time, to be peaceful, to be credible and to tackle the key outstanding issues," said Lyall Grant.
The rival governments are still wrangling over details of the referendum and broader topics such as the border between the two rivals, citizenship and revenue sharing.
"The timetable is now extremely tight but if that political commitment is translated into implementation by both parties, and with the international community's support, that timetable is do-able," the ambassador said.