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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK
Straw demands action in Darfur
Jack Straw with the governor of El Fasher, Osman Yusuf Kibir, in Darfur where he is visiting the Abu Shouk refugee camp
Mr Straw is urging Khartoum to curb Arab militias in Darfur
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has urged Sudan to do more to resolve the Darfur refugee crisis after he visited a refugee camp in the troubled region.

Mr Straw said Khartoum had made progress with humanitarian access and security within the camps.

But more needs to be done to make the area safe enough for people to feel they can go back home, he added.

One million people in the region have fled attacks by pro-government Arab militias.

'Sudan's role'

Mr Straw toured a feeding centre for critically ill children at the Abu Shouk refugee camp in northern Darfur.

He said it was critical that Khartoum establish "safety and security across Darfur and get the political process going".

Rebel groups operating in Darfur also had to take responsibility for restoring stability to the region, he said.

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Following talks with President Omar al-Bashir in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Mr Straw said he had urged the Sudanese leader to work with the international community to end the crisis.

"Our collective interest is to see a safe, secure and prosperous Sudan able to live at peace with itself amongst all its states and many tribes," he told correspondents.

"I also said to the President that the government of Sudan had to help us to help them and that meant fulfilling the obligations imposed on them by the United Nations."

He said the last thing the international community wanted was conflict with the Sudanese government.

Safe zones

Mr Straw's visit comes less than a week before the UN's 30 August deadline for the Sudanese government to disarm the pro-government militia blamed for atrocities against civilians in Darfur.

The foreign secretary said it would be up to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to decide whether the Sudanese authorities had done enough before a decision was taken on international action.

More than 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

Sudan has named twelve safe areas in Darfur and is sending thousands of police to the area, saying they are there to protect the displaced civilians.

But according to BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson who is in one of the safe areas - Kalma camp in south Darfur - few civilians feel comforted by the arrival of the new security forces.

She says most displaced people in Darfur tell stories of how their villages were attacked by Janjaweed militia operating together with government forces, who are now meant to be their protectors.

Mr Straw also met representatives of the African Union (AU) monitoring mission during his visit.

"What I understand is that there has not been aerial bombardment since the end of June, that the ceasefire as a formal ceasefire is broadly holding, but that atrocities have continued," he said.

Peace talks

In Abuja, Nigeria, peace talks between representatives of the Sudanese government and two rebel groups broke down on Tuesday evening, amid disagreement over the garrisoning of rebel forces in Darfur.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had earlier claimed that all sides were agreed on the need to garrison troops as a precursor to disarmament.

Discussions on an agenda for peace talks will now resume on Wednesday morning.

But any agreement would be just one step on a very long road, the BBC's Anna Borzello in Abuja says.

While Nigeria seems determined to resolve the political crisis within the AU, some observers wonder if the Sudanese government and rebels are really willing to talk, or if they are simply trying to present their best face to the international community, she says.

Previous talks collapsed in July, when the rebels walked out after the government refused to meet the rebels' terms.

'Five-star' camp

In the harsh sun, surrounded by hundreds of brightly veiled women, Mr Straw had plunged straight into the heart of the Abu Shouk camp on Tuesday.

He asked the refugees what had brought them to the camp and what would persuade them to go back to their villages. One woman said she had been bombarded from the air, presumably by Sudanese government planes.

Another said while the Janjaweed militia were still at large, she was too scared to go home again.

The UN has accused the Janjaweed of killing an estimated 50,000 people in Darfur in an 18-month reign of terror.

More than a million people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting, which escalated last year after rebels took up arms against Khartoum.

Sudan's government denies the charge that it used the Janjaweed to quell the rebel uprising, and has promised to disarm the militia.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Jack Straw is only getting a glimpse of their misery"

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