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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK
UN says Sudan agrees Darfur steps
Women queue for food at a camp in northern Darfur
Darfur: Described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis
The United Nations says Sudan has agreed to a plan to tackle the crisis in Darfur, where thousands have been killed by pro-government militias.

The measures include steps to disarm the militias and improve security.

UN special envoy Jan Pronk said if the proposals were implemented, he was hopeful Sudan could avoid UN sanctions.

The African Union says it hopes to send its first peacekeeping troops next week to Darfur, where more than one million people have fled their homes.

Progress needed

Sudan says it is willing to co-operate with the AU but there is no formal agreement on a peacekeeping force.

On Wednesday, thousands of government supporters protested in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, against foreign intervention in Darfur.

1m displaced
Up to 50,000 killed
More at risk from disease and starvation
Arab militias accused of ethnic cleansing
Sudan blames rebels for starting conflict

But international pressure has been growing on the Sudanese authorities to address the crisis in Darfur.

The UN has given the Khartoum government 30 days to make progress in disarming the Arab militias, called Janjaweed, that have driven hundreds of black Africans from their villages.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has stressed that Sudan must show some progress by the end of the month or face sanctions.

His special representative, Jan Pronk, and the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, agreed on the steps to be taken, although these still need to be approved by the Sudanese cabinet.

If the plan is implemented, Mr Pronk said, then he was "very hopeful that the Security Council would come to the conclusion that there was indeed substantial progress and that there was no need to consider further action."

The government denies backing the Janjaweed and says Darfur rebels, who they blame for starting the conflict, should also be disarmed.

However, Mr Ismail said they would meet the UN's demands.

"Although it is unfair, we will do our best to co-operate with it," he said.

African solution

While the Sudanese government and its supporters are furious at the suggestion that US or UK soldiers might intervene in Darfur, troops from the African Union are more acceptable, the BBC's Paul Wood in Khartoum says.

Rebels of the Movement for Justice and Equality (MJE), fighting Sudanese troops, patrol 28 July 2004 in north Darfur
Rebels say the government is suppressing black Africans
Rwanda and Nigeria have agreed to send 300 soldiers to Darfur and the AU is considering sending a far larger force of about 2,000 troops, although this has not yet been approved by African leaders.

The UN says up to 50,000 people have died since the conflict erupted last year.

Mr Pronk also told reporters that the Sudanese authorities had lifted restrictions on humanitarian assistance, and he called for more food and medicine to be sent to Darfur.

The World Health Organisation says that at least 100 cases of acute jaundice and abdominal pain were reported last week in the camps which are housing thousands of internally displaced people in West Darfur.

Given the camps' insanitary conditions, aid workers fear outbreaks of serious diseases.

The BBC's Paul Wood
"There is a lot more sympathy for the idea of African troops coming here"

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