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UN urges demilitarisation of camps

The UN Security Council has called for the demilitarisation of camps for hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Darfur and unhindered access for aid workers the UN says are facing increasing harassment and violence.

The council heard briefings from UN peacekeeping and humanitarian officials mainly on the situation in Kalma Camp, one of the largest, where demonstrations in late July by opponents of peace talks with the government turned violent and humanitarian workers were barred for two weeks.

Fighting in Darfur that began with a 2003 rebellion by groups who accused the government of neglecting the vast desert region left up to 300,000 people dead and forced 2.7 million to flee their homes - many to camps in Sudan's vast western region, according to UN figures.

UN officials remain concerned about the presence of weapons and armed groups inside Kalma and other camps for the internally displaced, known as IDPs.

The Security Council in a statement condemned the violence in Kalma, welcomed efforts by the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force to increase patrols and restore calm there, and called for the demilitarisation of Kalma and other IDP camps in Darfur.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said the camps are supposed to be demilitarised, and both the UN and the joint force, known as Unamid, are "focused on the need to have demilitarised status in those camps".

"The problem is, weapons are flowing all over the place, not just in the camps but outside," he said.

UN officials warned that any coercive disarmament campaign would have serious implications for Unamid's impartiality as well as efforts to achieve peace in Darfur - and privately some warned that any such effort could spark conflict.

The UN offered to advise and help a disarmament programme that is voluntary, non-coercive and comprehensive.

"The forceful extraction of weapons out of the camp is not a part of Unamid's mandate," Mr Churkin said.


From Belfast Telegraph