Britain offers to host Darfur peace talks

Britain has offered to host peace talks on the strife-torn Sudanese region of Darfur under proposals put forward by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his office said on Sunday.

British officials have been in contact with the Khartoum regime and rebel groups to offer the possibility of a summit.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Britain is willing to invite all parties to London for talks to see if there is a way to make some progress.”

Details of the offer were released as activists in 30 countries prepared to hold a global day of action on Sunday to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Darfur conflict.

Brown said in a statement he was frustrated at the “appalling situation and the slow progress” in brokering peace talks.

He promised to bring up the issue of deploying peacekeepers in Darfur during talks with United States President George Bush and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the US next week.

Brown, who discussed Darfur with Hollywood star and campaigner George Clooney this month, said the impact of the violence on young people has been devastating.

“Today, on the fifth Global Day for Darfur, the eyes of the world are rightly focused on the millions of men, women and children in the region who continue to start each day with the fear of violence, abduction, rape or death,” he said.

“Already 200 000 people have died, two million have been displaced and four million are surviving on international aid.

“And the effects on children of the violence in Darfur have been nothing short of devastating. One million children have been forced to flee their homes and now live in crowded camps in need of basic food and water; two million children depend on humanitarian aid to survive; and half of all children are not receiving any education.”

Brown added: “I feel frustrated by this appalling situation and the slow progress, but I am determined that we will not fail.”

The Darfur conflict began when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Sudanese regime and Arab militia.—Sapa-AFP

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