Saturday, March 13, 1999 Published at 00:10 GMT
Sudan given anti-slavery plan
Women and children are mainly at risk from being enslaved, say NGOs
The Sudanese government has been presented with a plan to end slavery in war-torn country.
Unicef, the United Nations children's agency, drew up the four-point plan after an appeal for help from Khartoum.
The practice is officially banned in Sudan and the government has, until recently, denied it still exists.
Sudan accuses the West of exaggerating the charges as part of a campaign to impose economic and political embargoes against the Muslim government.
But last month, Khartoum invited United Nations investigator Leonardo Franco to visit southern Sudan to assess the situation.
Price of freedom
Unicef has also criticised other non-governmental agencies (NGOs) who have paid money to free the slaves.
It said in January that it had freed more than 1,000 slaves, most of them children, with the help of European and North American financial backers.
Unicef head Carol Bellamy said that the organisation did not condone these efforts as it believed they did not tackle the root problem of slavery.
She said: "The sobering truth is that these efforts will not end the enslavement of human beings."
Unicef conceded the best way to put a stop to slavery was to end the civil war between the Islamist government in the north and Christian and animist rebels in the south. More than 1.5 million people have been killed since 1983.