Annan to open conference on Sudan region of Darfur

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan opens a critical international meeting in Ethiopia on Thursday to discuss the increasingly desperate situation in Darfur and push again for UN peacekeepers to replace a beleaguered African force in Sudan's troubled western region. In his closing days as UN chief, Annan will appeal for greater international involvement to break the deadlock in Darfur. Speaking on Wednesday in neighboring Kenya, he said the United Nations still wants to send its own troops to Darfur. "We have not given up the idea of strengthening the force in Darfur," Annan said. "We need to continue our efforts to calm Darfur ... the border area between Chad and Sudan is very fragile and volatile." In an attempt to give new momentum to the stalled peace process, Annan is convening the meeting in Addis Ababa of senior officials from the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, Sudan, the United States, China, Russia, Egypt, France and half a dozen African countries.