Ambassadors from the UN Security Council were to head to Kenya yesterday for a rare meeting outside New York aimed at pressing for an end to Sudan's long-running civil war and the separate crisis in Darfur.
No final accord in the 21-year north-south conflict is expected to result from the meeting, diplomats said, but the two-day session starting tomorrow is intended to press the parties to reach a deal by year's end.
The trip, only the fourth time since 1952 that the council will hold a formal meeting outside UN headquarters in New York, is being led by US Ambassador John Danforth, council president for November.
Danforth, the former envoy of US President George W. Bush, said the time had come for a definitive deal between the Khartoum government and the southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
"We have been waiting for action by the government of Sudan and by the SPLM for a very long period of time. This has dragged on and on and on for reasons that are unfathomable," Danforth said.
He said the council was "assuming that the parties to the peace agreement discussions want a brighter future. If they do, then they have, at least for a period of time, the attention of the international community."
The ambassadors from the 15-nation council, along with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, will meet with members of the Sudan government, rebel leaders and other African officials during the trip.
A draft resolution that the council is expected to adopt in Nairobi urges the World Bank and other international donors to ready a development and reconstruction package for Africa's largest nation once a deal is reached.
Rebels in the Christian and animist south rose up against the Arab-led, Islamic Khartoum government in 1983, and a final accord between the two has seemed close in recent months.
But the final stretch of negotiations has become bogged down in details of a permanent ceasefire and the deployment of various armed forces during a planned six-year, post-war interim period.
Talks between the government and the rebels are set to resume on November 26. Around 1.5 million people are believed to have died in the civil war.
Council members hope that progress on the north-south track will help ease the crisis in Sudan's vast western Darfur region, where an estimated 70,000 people have died since February last year.
Indigenous rebels in Darfur staged an uprising that was put down with the help of Arab proxy militias who have been blamed for a campaign of ethnic cleansing including rape and pillaging.
Some 1.2 million people have been driven from their homes, and the UN's Sudan envoy recently said the Darfur region was slipping into anarchy, with the government no longer in full control of forces in the area.
The Security Council has already passed two resolutions threatening sanctions against Khartoum if it does not rein in the militias and end the Darfur bloodshed.