Darfur region: attacks by militia groups

The United Nations' Security Council has been told Sudan has failed to stop attacks by militia groups in the western Darfur region. Our Africa correspondent, Sally Sara, reports the UN is urging Sudan to allow the deployment of international peacekeepers. A UN special envoy, Jan Pronk, has delivered a report to the Security Council, saying foreign troops are needed to restore security in the region. He says while some progress had been made, the Sudanese government must take action to disarm the militias that are terrorising civilians. The Security Council is yet to decide whether to take action against Sudan for failing to stop attacks in Darfur. It is urging the Sudanese government to accept the deployment of an African peacekeeping force, informs ABC. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington was assessing its interviews of more than 1,100 Darfur refugees in Chad. A report of those interviews, currently being compiled by the State Department, will be a major factor in determining whether genocide occurred. The interviews with the refugees about their experience, Boucher said, were conducted in a "systematic way" to determine whether the atrocities against Darfur's black Africans were racially motivated. Officials have said the project, in essence, was a genocide investigation. Boucher said information from the interviews "coincides with the pattern that we have seen that government forces, Janjaweed militias, Arab groups -- there's a pattern of attacks against non-Arab populations." "Exactly what that constitutes in terms of the crime of genocide and how that needs to be examined and looked at is something that we have to address," he said. Boucher said that Secretary of State Colin Powell was likely to address the issue when he appeareds before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next Thursday, reports CNN. According to VOANews, Sudan is accusing the United States of using violence-torn Darfur to compete for voters heading to the polls in November. Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said Saturday that Washington's recent hard-line comments are aimed at African-American voters, adding that the United States is wrong to label the conflict in Darfur as genocide. The United States has alleged that evidence shows the Arab-led Khartoum government has been involved in attacks on black citizens in Sudan, an accusation Khartoum denies. Next week, Secretary of State Colin Powell is set to testify before a Senate panel, providing the preliminary results of a U.S. probe into whether genocide has been committed in the region. Violence in Darfur has killed more than 30,000 people and driven more than one million from their homes.

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