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 CNS Story:

POPE-SUDAN Jun-1-2007 (430 words) xxxi

Pope urges Sudan to end military campaign in Darfur

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged Sudan to end its military campaign against the war-ravaged region of Darfur and implement a political solution that respects the country's minorities.

"It is never too late to courageously make the necessary and sometimes restrictive choices aimed at putting an end to a crisis," he said in an address to Sudan's new ambassador to the Vatican.

Pope Benedict said "the force of weapons" could not put an end to "this deadly conflict."

The only "viable solution" that would bring peace is one based on justice, dialogue and negotiation "in order to arrive at a political solution to the conflict in respect of cultural, ethnic, and religious minorities," the pope said.

He made his comments June 1 as Ahmed Hamid Elfaki Hamid presented his credentials as the new ambassador.

Sudan's Darfur region has been beset by human rights abuses and other atrocities since February 2003 when fighting escalated between rebel groups and government troops and Janjaweed, or Arab militias. Human rights groups accuse the Janjaweed of waging a terror campaign against black Africans to push them from the land.

The conflict has forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes and left more than 200,000 people dead since 2003, causing a humanitarian crisis that the United States has described as genocide.

In May 2006, a cease-fire agreement between the government and one rebel faction was reached, but the deadlines have been ignored, and the fighting has continued.

Pope Benedict called on all parties to continue working toward a peaceful and negotiated solution to the crisis. He praised the various accords, already formulated, aimed at "abandoning strategies of confrontation." Among those accords he mentioned was one that dealt with southern Sudan.

Since its independence from Great Britain in 1956, Sudan has been torn by civil wars pitting the Muslim, Arab North of the country against the non-Arab, animist and Christian South.

The pope urged Sudanese leaders to protect and foster the country's cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.

"National diversity can, if it is regarded positively as an opportunity, contribute efficiently to the stabilization of peace and security in the country," he said.

He said leaders have a responsibility to serve their nation and strive for peace and harmony among its citizens and "to banish all forms of discrimination or supremacy of a group over another, and to guarantee the respect and rights of minorities."

END


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