Activists call for emergency UN meeting on Darfur

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov 5 (Reuters) A coalition of international activists called on Monday for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to condemn increased violence in Darfur and delays in deploying a UN peacekeeping force.

The Save Darfur Coalition, an umbrella group of 180 religious and human rights groups, wrote a letter to the ambassador of Indonesia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, urging him to put Darfur on the agenda.

''The need for an emergency meeting could not be more urgent,'' it said, pointing to growing violence in Darfur, limited progress in peace talks with rebels and government in Libya last month and obstacles holding up the peacekeepers.

It said the Security Council should condemn Khartoum's failure to approve the composition of a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force and express concern at the absence of several rebel groups at the peace talks in Libya.

It also called for the council to ''condemn the recent escalation of violence by the Sudanese government and its Janjaweed militia, and by various rebel factions.'' Indonesian Ambassador Marty Natalegawa said he would be guided by other members of the Security Council on whether to call a meeting.

''To our knowledge, I am not privy to such a request (by any Security Council member) just now, but we will take things one step at a time,'' he told reporters.

International experts say some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have fled their homes in Darfur since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, which in turn mobilized predominantly Arab militias to crush the revolt.

Khartoum, which with the backing of its main ally China long resisted demands for a UN force, says only 9,000 are dead and the crisis has been exaggerated.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem said Save Darfur was ''not a credible organization.'' He said the Security Council had already addressed the question of the rebels missing the Libya talks and the deployment of the peacekeeping force was a ''technical'' matter in the hands of the UN peacekeeping department.

''The government of Sudan has fulfilled its obligations,'' he told Reuters. ''We don't need meetings, we need actions.'' US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last month Khartoum was dragging its feet over accepting the peacekeeping force by failing to approve a composition that would be largely but not entirely African. He said Washington may consider sanctions.

Asked whether Khartoum had now approved the proposed force composition, Abdalhaleem said: ''We're dealing with it as a technical issue. We think we have enough troops.'' Save Darfur senior director Amjad Atallah said the Security Council should also discuss a foundering peace agreement that ended a two-decade-long north-south civil war in 2005.

Atallah said the Security Council should discuss Darfur and the southern civil war at the same time because if the southern agreement collapsed and civil war resumed, ''Sudan is going to become Somalia on a giant scale.'' REUTERS MP AS0355

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