Sudan

Sudan: Ban Ki-moon says attacks on blue helmets 'unacceptable'

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today strongly condemned the recent killing of a United Nations officer in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

He also deplored the armed hijacking of a UN convoy yesterday, during which three vehicles were stolen and the passengers robbed.

"It is unacceptable that those working to bring stability and life-saving humanitarian assistance to Darfur continue to be targeted," his spokesperson said in a statement. "All parties must urgently adhere to the ceasefire and support the activities of the United Nations and the African Union (AU) in this beleaguered region of Sudan."

On 25 May, Lieutenant-Colonel Ehab Nazih, a Military Staff Officer from Egypt who served with the UN mission known as UNMIS, was killed during an armed robbery when three men in civilian clothing broke into the private home he shared with seven other UN staff members.

After taking money and valuables from the other occupants of the house, the armed men moved to the victim's room and demanded money from Lt. Colonel Nazih, who gave them all the money he had and was then shot.

According to UNMIS, he was rushed to a hospital run by the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS), where he was pronounced dead.

Additionally, Mr. Ban "urges the Government of Sudan to facilitate the immediate deployment of the Heavy Support Package to AMIS, and agree to the UN-AU Hybrid Operation without delay," the statement said.

As part of the UN's efforts to support and enhance AMIS, which is severely under-resourced, a three-phase programme has been initiated.

The UN is already providing the first-phase Light Support Package to AMIS which includes police advisers, civilian staff, technical support and other resources.

Khartoum has endorsed the second-phase Heavy Support Package, which entails the UN providing some troops, police officers, civilian staff and helicopter gunships, among other resources, to AMIS.

Last week, he sent a report to the Security Council detailing the proposed hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping force, which represents the final phase. The report includes the planned mandate and structure for the hybrid force.

In today's statement, Mr. Ban also called for support to be lent to his Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim.

"Lasting peace in Darfur can only be achieved through an inclusive and comprehensive peace process reinforced by a strong peacekeeping presence," he said.

The two envoys are pushing for formal political negotiations to resolve the deadly conflict engulfing Sudan's Darfur region, and they believe such talks could begin soon, with many of the warring parties indicating they are ready to negotiate.

Mr. Ban has described Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003, as the scene of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.