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UN to Send Observers to Darfur - 2004-08-06

The United Nations says a first team of human rights observers will be leaving for Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur within the coming few days. The U.N. says the team will be involved in monitoring efforts to disarm the so-called Janjaweed militia. A United Nations spokesman, Jose Diaz, says eight observers will arrive in Sudan within the next few days, and will be the eyes and ears in Darfur of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Last week, the Security Council passed a resolution calling on the government in Khartoum to disarm the Janjaweed militia within 30 days. Otherwise, the resolution said, unspecified international action will be taken. Mr. Annan will present a progress report to the Security Council at the end of this period.

Mr. Diaz says the observers will provide Mr. Annan with some of the information he will need for his report. "He will be reporting on the progress or lack thereof by the government of Sudan on this matter of disarming the Janjaweed and bringing them to justice, the leaders of the militia and their associates," he says.

Arab Janjaweed militiamen, allegedly supported by the Sudan government, are accused of conducting a reign of terror against the black African population in Darfur. The United Nations estimates up to 50,000 people have been killed since war broke out 18 months ago between the militia and two rebel groups. More than one-million people have been made homeless, and nearly 200,000 Sudanese have fled to neighboring Chad.

Mr. Diaz says the eight-member team of observers met Friday with African Union officials in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The AU is planning to deploy 2,000 peacekeepers to Darfur.

The U.N. spokesman says the observers will fly to Khartoum on Sunday, where they will hold consultations with the government. He says two observers will remain in Khartoum to coordinate activities, and there will be two observers in each of Darfur's three regions.

"They will, of course, be on the ground and will be able to monitor and look first hand at what is happening, and they will be reporting on what is happening in Darfur," says Mr. Diaz. "So, in that way, they will, we are hoping they will bring some value added to the international operation there."

Mr. Diaz says a special human rights expert is expected to go to Darfur around the middle of this month to begin an investigation into human rights violations.