KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Senior UN diplomats will seek to persuade Khartoum on Tuesday to accept UN peacekeepers in the violent Darfur region after UN chief Kofi Annan accused Sudan of violating international law.
Despite a peace deal signed by the government and the main Darfur rebel group on May 5, dozens have been killed in clashes between rebels and government-armed Arab militias. An African Union (AU) peacekeeping force is cash-strapped and ill-equipped.
Khartoum, under international pressure to accept a transition to UN peacekeepers, initially resisted and said such a deployment would cause an Iraq-like quagmire that would attract Islamist militants into attacking the UN troops.
But since the peace deal was struck, the government has softened its stance and says it does not reject a UN force but wants to be consulted about its mandate in Darfur — an arid ethnically mixed region the size of France.
Veteran troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi and UN peacekeeping head Hedi Annabi are due to arrive for a two-day visit during which they plan to meet President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other government leaders.
“We are hoping that we can work out an agreement with the government because … this (deployment) should not be done without the agreement of the government,” said UN deputy spokesman Bahaa Elkoussy.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution this month that envisages UN peacekeepers taking over from 7,000 AU troops.
A UN human rights report sent to Reuters late on Monday outlined joint attacks between government forces and militias with the use of helicopter gunships and an Antonov plane in February and in April.
The government denies it is still using militias in Darfur.
The report also said impunity for those who torture, murder or rape in Darfur was widespread and Khartoum had not prosecuted any high-level officials for such crimes.
The AU force has been monitoring a widely ignored truce in Darfur, but since the May 5 deal Arab militias known locally as Janjaweed have grown bolder and attacked towns where the AU has bases.
More than 250,000 people have fled their homes since the beginning of the year because of the conflict. Frustrated Darfuris have begun to attack the AU force, killing an interpreter earlier this month.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the Sudanese government that its restrictions on supplies and relief workers in Darfur was a violation of international humanitarian law.
He said in a report to the UN Security Council on Monday, that atrocities, including rape and pillaging, were swelling the population in squalid camps, now about 2.5 million.
The report said 80,000 people have no access to vital services, around 1,000 children per month no longer receive routine vaccinations, and a polio immunization campaign had to be suspended for 20,000 children under the age of 5.
Rebels took up arms in early 2003, accusing the Arab-dominated central government of neglecting Darfur.
Khartoum armed mostly Arab tribes to crush the rebels. A campaign of murder, looting, rape and arson has driven more than 2 million people from their homes into camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad.
Despite intense international pressure two of the three rebel Darfur groups involved in peace negotiations refused to sign the May 5 deal, saying it was unfair.
The AU said on Monday Janjaweed militiamen were massing in North and South Darfur and attacking villages and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) accused the government of violating the accord by attacking SLA bases in Dar el-Salaam in North Darfur and flying Antonov planes over rebel areas.
The government denied the accusation.