UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to the Sudanese government to disarm militias involved in criminal and military activities in the troubled western region of Darfur.
In his monthly report to the UN Security Council on 9 June, Annan said: "The government must move against the militia as a matter of course in all circumstances - with a view to the eventual disarmament and demobilization of the militia."
He said pro-government militia had remained active in the states of North, South and West Darfur during May, and had continued to attack and harass civilian populations. Small-scale assaults on villages and farms were the most common crimes reported, he added.
Rape continued to be reported, he said, but had decreased modestly in May, in part due to the increased presence of soldiers and police from the African Mission in the Sudan in and around camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
"Fighting between the government and the [rebel] Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement was reported throughout the month of May," he said. "Of the two movements, it appeared the SLA was more often the instigator of the clashes."
The conflict, which broke out in February 2003, pits rebels who have accused the government of marginalising Darfur against government troops and militias allegedly allied to the administration in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
Annan said May’s violence and criminal activity had an adverse effect on humanitarian activities, temporarily limiting access to specific areas.
"The growing insecurity in certain areas will only make the delivery of humanitarian aid that much more difficult," he said.
Meanwhile, the UN envoy for Sudan, Jan Pronk, began a two-day mission on Thursday to assess the situation in Sudan's Darfur region, during which he will visit camps for internally displaced people and meet local authorities.
Pronk will also be briefed on developments since the signing in 2004 of a joint communique listing actions that each side would take on security, humanitarian and other issues.
According to the UN, more than 2.5 million people have been affected by conflict of whom 1.9 million are IDPs.