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SUDAN: Gov't denies UN humanitarian chief permission to visit Darfur

NAIROBI, 3 April 2006 (IRIN) - Sudanese authorities have denied the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, permission to visit the strife-torn western region of Darfur, a UN spokeswoman said on Monday.

"We are disappointed that he will not be welcomed in Darfur," said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "He [Egeland] has had several successful missions in the past."

Egeland is on a nine-day mission to Chad, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. He started a five-day visit to Sudan on Sunday, which would have incorporated Darfur and southern Sudan.

Egeland arrived in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, from Uganda on Sunday. He travelled by barge overnight with a group of internally displaced persons returning to their homes in the southern town of Bor. He then travelled to another southern town, Rumbek, where he was due to have talks on Monday with representatives of the Government of Southern Sudan, according to other UN sources.

Bunker said Sudan's permanent mission at the UN in New York indicated over the weekend that Egeland would not be welcome in Darfur or in the capital, Khartoum.

The Darfur conflict erupted in early 2003 when the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army and the smaller Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to end what they call the neglect and oppression of the mainly black inhabitants of Darfur, a semi-desert region the size of France. The Sudanese government responded by backing Arab militia known as the Janjawid.

Humanitarian workers estimate that more than 180,000 people have been killed in the violence and nearly two million forced to flee their homes.

On 21 March, the representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sudan, Jan Pronk, called for the deployment of a vigorous UN peacekeeping force in Darfur to replace the current African Union (AU) mission, saying killings, rape and human rights abuse in the area continued to threaten peace in the country.

Khartoum is opposed to the proposed transfer of the peacekeeping responsibility in Darfur from the AU to the UN.

Theme (s): Conflict, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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