UN warns of new Darfur disaster

AU troops in training in Darfur
AU forces in Darfur are stretched beyond capacity
The UN's most senior humanitarian official has warned that Sudan's Darfur region faces a new humanitarian disaster owing to lack of security.

Jan Egeland spoke as the Security Council considered a US and UK plan to send 22,000 UN troops to Darfur.

US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer has announced she is staying in Sudan for an extra day in order to meet President Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan rejects transforming an existing African Union force into a UN mission.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2m driven from their homes in three years of fighting in Darfur.

Mr Egeland, the UN emergency relief co-ordinator, warned the Security Council that the work of the aid agencies could collapse because of a chronic lack of security, and warned of "massive loss of life".

"Insecurity is at its highest levels since 2004, (humanitarian) access at its lowest levels since that date and we may well be on the brink of a return to all-out war," Mr Egeland told the council, according to a text of his remarks quoted by Reuters news agency.

US pressure

Mrs Frazer, who was due to have left Khartoum on Monday, has brought with her a letter from President George W Bush aiming to persuade the Sudanese government to authorise the deployment of a UN peace force in Darfur.

She has not yet met President Bashir as she had intended.

Washington has said urgent action must be taken to stop a "genocide".

Before leaving Washington, Mrs Frazer stressed the US was not about to "fight its way in" and that any international peacekeeping force would need the backing of Sudan's government.

But she insisted that "foot-dragging at the UN" must not be allowed.

The US and the UK had circulated the draft, calling for 17,000 well-equipped peacekeepers, at the Security Council.

However, Sudanese National Congress Party chairman Ghazi Salah Eldin Atabani said the plan would "impose complete tutelage" on Sudan.

"Any state that sponsors this draft resolution will be regarded as assuming a hostile attitude against the Sudan," he said.

A peace deal was signed last May between the government of Sudan and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army rebels, yet the bloodshed continues to force tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in camps.

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