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UNHCR Chief thanks Chad for hospitality; Urges peace deal for Darfur


Aug 25, 2005 (UNITED NATIONS) — Praising the people of Chad for their "remarkable" hospitality towards 200,000 refugees driven out of Darfur by two years of fighting in neighbouring Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency chief today called on the Sudanese Government and rebel factions to agree quickly on a peace deal that will allow the refugees to go back home.

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also called on the wider international community to increase its support for the Darfur peace negotiations aimed at bringing peace to the western Sudanese region where the two-year conflict has killed at least 180,000 people and sparked a wave of displacement, with nearly 2 million people crowded into Sudanese camps, and 200,000 others living in 12 refugee camps in Chad.

The African Union-led talks, set to resume shortly in Abuja, Nigeria, were suspended in July following the signing of a preliminary agreement between the parties aimed at ending the fighting.

"We believe there is a window of opportunity that is open, and the international community must work fast that this window does not close, and that peace can be gained quickly - by the end of this year," Mr. Guterres said from eastern Chad’s Iridimi camp, home to 15,000 refugees, on the third day of his 10-day visit to the region.

He said it is time to refocus world attention on Sudan, a country that is "a bit forgotten" as other world crises attract attention. "We send an appeal to the international community to help create peace in Sudan, and to invest in creating conditions that are necessary to help Sudanese return to their homes once peace is established," he added in a meeting with refugees and local people.

After visiting camps for displaced persons in Darfur and southern Sudan in Darfur and Khartoum over the past two days, he said he was impressed with Iridimi because of its spaciousness and its health centre and schools. He added that the fact that people are living in tents spaced far apart and not in cramped conditions is due to the generosity of the local people and authorities in giving over large tracts of land for UNHCR’s camps in eastern Chad.

On Friday, he goes to the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, where he is expected to repeat his appreciation of Chadian hospitality and to call for more international financial support for Chad, itself one of the poorest countries in the world.

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