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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 17:27 GMT
UN envoy in talks on Darfur force
A child refugee from the Darfur conflict in a camp in eastern Chad
About 2.5 million people in Darfur have been made homeless
A United Nations special envoy is in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for talks on bolstering the African Union (AU) force in war-torn Darfur.

Ahmadou Ould Abdallah will meet President Omar al-Bashir to discuss plans for a joint AU-UN peacekeeping mission to curb the rising violence.

The Sudanese government has so far rejected calls for a joint force.

The UN's refugee chief, meanwhile, is to visit neighbouring Chad for talks on the humanitarian crisis there.

Three years of fighting in Darfur have left at least 200,000 people dead and made another 2.5 million homeless.

There are also fears that the fighting is destabilising Chad, home to hundreds of thousands of refugees and where there has been an upsurge in violence.

'Seeking clarity'

Mr Abdallah, a Mauritanian national who is a UN under secretary general, is on a one-off visit to discuss Sudan's objections to parts of the UN plan.

Map

The UN has proposed that the current weak AU force of 7,000 soldiers be bolstered with more money and equipment supplied by the UN, eventually merging with UN troops into a hybrid force.

But Mr Bashir has so far rejected calls for the involvement of UN peacekeepers.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Mr Abdallah would seek "as much clarity as possible" on Khartoum's position.

Mr Annan has also named former General Assembly president Jan Eliasson as a interim special representative to Sudan in a bid to ease the deadlock.

UNHCR head Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, is to visit eastern Chad amid growing fears for the safety of refugees along the border with Darfur.

Almost 40 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and armed raiders in the region in recent days, according to the government, which has blamed Arab militias based in Sudan.

The UN has pulled many of its aid workers from the region, and Mr Guterres said that aid agencies were working "in extremely difficult circumstances".

He warned of the danger of the escalating violence.

"If things go on and if things are not effectively contained, the risk of a total Darfurisation of the region, both in Chad and Central African Republic, is very high," he said.

Mr Guterres will hold talks with Chadian President Idriss Deby in the capital, N'Djamena, on Thursday.




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