Darfurs aid operations in jeopardy warns Annan in latest report on troubled

Sudan’s war-torn region of Darfur has reached a critical stage, with humanitarian groups at risk of withdrawing or drastically reducing their operations unless security conditions improve rapidly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warns in his latest report to the Security Council.Reviewing events during August, Mr. Annan says the months since the striking of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May have been disastrous, with signatories and non-signatories breaching their obligations under that and other accords.“Instead of reconciliation and building of trust, we are witnessing intensified violence and deeper polarization,” he says. “The region is again on the brink of a catastrophic situation.”Calling on all parties to halt the violence, Mr. Annan voices particular concern that the Sudanese Government appear to be seeking a military solution to the conflict, deploying increasing numbers of troops to the region and using air support during its attacks.He also criticizes the Government’s obstruction of some United Nations personnel and the lack of respect for civilians by all sides in the conflict, which has raged since 2003 on Sudan’s remote western flank.UN officials have estimated that more than 400,000 people have been killed amid fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups. Nearly 2 million others have been forced to flee their homes, and over 3 million people depend on humanitarian aid for food, shelter or basic health care.In his report Mr. Annan says the Government and the international community must each work harder to broaden the support for the DPA and persuade those rebel groups which have not signed the accord to do so.He welcomes the decision to extend the operation of the African Union peacekeeping force, known as AMIS, through the end of this year, and to endorse a new concept of operations for the force.In August the Security Council voted to deploy a force of more than 17,000 blue helmets in Darfur, but the Sudanese Government has said repeatedly that it is opposed to a UN force entering the region.Mr. Annan again urges the Sudanese Government to change its stance and accept UN peacekeepers, adding that the Security Council and the wider international community must also send “a clear, strong and uniform message” about the consequences of the Government rejecting international help for Darfur’s suffering civilians.The Secretary-General’s report came as the Security Council held closed consultations on Darfur and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) detailed fresh reports of attacks and displacement across the vast, impoverished region.About 10,000 people have set up a temporary camp close to an African Union (AU) camp in South Darfur following fighting in the area, according to UNMIS. In Kalma, also in South Darfur, armed men killed two people and injured another as they abducted three members of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).Government troops are also reported to have attacked the North Darfur village of Malagat, northeast of Kuttum, although there are no details of any casualties.Meanwhile the World Food Programme (WFP) has received 28 million euros ($35.5 million) in donations from the European Commission to help with its Darfur operations, which takes the total sent by the EC to almost 72 million euros, or 60 per cent more than last year.WFP fed some 2.6 million people across Darfur in August, but another 355,000 locals, mostly in North Darfur, remained out of reach because of ongoing fighting and acts of banditry against aid workers.