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U.N. official: Aid work in Darfur near collapse

Published May 20, 2006

UNITED NATIONS - The top U.N humanitarian official warned Friday that relief efforts in Sudan's Darfur region could collapse within weeks unless the government makes good on a peace deal and donors fund aid work.

Jan Egeland, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council that the government must lift restrictions on aid groups if they are to do their job properly and that relief work in the region faced a $389-million shortfall.

"The next few weeks will be make or break," Egeland said. "We can turn the corner toward reconciliation and reconstruction, or see an even worse collapse of our efforts to provide protection and relief to millions of people." Egeland spoke as the United Nations announced that Secretary-General Kofi Annan will dispatch a highly respected envoy and a top peacekeeping official to Sudan in a bid to persuade the government to allow a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur.

So far, the Sudanese government has refused to grant visas so an assessment team can go to Sudan to prepare for the United Nations force. The 7,300-strong African Union force in place now has been largely unable to halt violence there despite a peace deal signed two weeks ago.

Egeland told the council that the number of displaced people in South Darfur had tripled in the last four months to between 100,000 and 120,000.

[Last modified May 20, 2006, 07:43:20]

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