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Russia is opposed to increasing international pressure on Sudan over the situation in its violence-torn province of Darfur
Russia is opposed to increasing international pressure on Sudan over the situation in its violence-torn province of Darfur, a deputy foreign minister said Monday. "Voicing its opinion on various aspects of the 'Darfur dossier' at the UN Security Council, Russia, China and some non-permanent members are seeking to find a compromise solution to the 'Darfur knot' and to cushion a one-sided and counterproductive trend to increase pressure on Sudanese authorities, including sanctions," Alexander Yakovenko said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily. Yakovenko spoke on the eve of an international conference on Darfur, which opened Monday in Paris at the initiative of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. The UN estimates that interethnic violence and disease have killed at least 200,000 in Darfur since the latest conflict began in February 2003 between rebel groups seeking independence for the oil-rich region and the central government in Khartoum. In March 2007, the UN mission accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur, and called for urgent international action to protect civilians. The United States announced new sanctions against Khartoum in late May, accusing it of "genocide." Washington is also pushing for additional sanctions against the Sudanese government led by President Omar al-Beshir. But Yakovenko said that additional pressure would only encourage the Darfur opposition to put forward harsher demands and eliminate the prospects of finding a compromise altogether. The Russian diplomat said the agenda at the Paris conference would focus on discussions and the implementation of a "road map" jointly developed by the UN and the 53-member African Union. "Primarily, it [the road map] envisions the coordination and streamlining of all mediation efforts," Yakovenko said, adding that the government of South Sudan and other regional mediators could play an important role in the resolution of the conflict. After months of rejection, Khartoum agreed earlier in June to a peacekeeping operation in Darfur, to be run jointly by the UN and the African Union, which provides the bulk of the 23,000 foreign troops deployed in the province. The diplomat also said the conference would discuss additional humanitarian assistance to Darfur, where over 2 million people have been displaced domestically or have fled to other countries.
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