"It is urgent to act now. Civilians are still being attacked and fleeing their villages as we speak," Annan said on Thursday of the resolution that threatens to consider oil sanctions against Sudan if it does not stop the abuse. 

US Ambassador John Danforth said he expected to call a vote for Saturday afternoon in the 15-member council. Diplomats said they expected about 11 votes in favour of the resolution and were waiting for China to come to a decision. Russia, Pakistan and Algeria also had some reservations. 

China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, who earlier in the week threatened a veto, told reporters he still had difficulties with the text and was waiting for instructions from Beijing. But diplomats said Annan's appeal probably had an impact on China. 

'Very important'

The conflict in Darfur has created
1.2 million refugees in the region

"I think that it was a very important statement by the secretary-general," Danforth said after another round of council talks. 

The draft resolution is the second in the Security Council this summer aimed at stopping the violence, which the United Nations says has left an estimated 50,000 Africans dead and has forced 1.2 million people to flee their homes. Militia, known as Janjawid, are accused of murder and rape and were often backed by the Sudanese military. 

Danforth submitted numerous revisions on the resolution on Thursday, including deleting a demand Sudan cease all military flights over Darfur. 

But the main points of the text remain: A call for the African Union to field a large monitoring force in Darfur and a threat to consider sanctions if Sudan does not cooperate with the monitors and stop the marauding militia. 

"I want to make it clear that, no matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians in Darfur are characterised or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now" 

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

The resolution also asks Annan to create an international commission to determine human-rights violations and whether genocide has occurred in Darfur as US Secretary of State Colin Powell maintained last week. 

"If this resolution is adopted I shall do so with all speed," Annan said, adding he was already making some preliminary preparations. "But I want to make it clear that, no matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians in Darfur are characterised or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now." 

Charges denied

But in an interview with Aljazeera, governor of north Darfur Uthman Muhammad Yusuf denied accusations of genocide. "This is a big and historical lie. We call on those accusing us to come to Darfur and prove that on the ground," said Yusuf.

"There is no ethnic cleansing or genocide. We are one family in Dafrur and from one origin. We are united in one home."

When asked about allegations of Sudan's failure in disarming militias, Yusuf said that what they have achieved was "extraordinary" taking into consideration the time they had and the circumstances they were in.

"What we have achieved in the humanitarian side silences those seeking evidences to condemn Sudan," he added.

Colin Powell has referred to the
atrocities in Darfur as 'genocide'

When asked about negotiations with rebel movements, Yusuf said: "I think that talks with our brethren (rebels) in Europe who lead luxurious life in grand hotels could only have a little impact.

"Residents of Darfur are the only ones who can solve the real problem and we can not negotiate with a group that does not represent more than 4% of Darfur's population," Yusuf said.

Rebel attack

Meanwhile,  four Sudanese policemen, including an officer, have been killed in an attack by Darfur rebels on a town in North Darfur, a newspaper reported on Friday. 

Al-Hayat daily said rebels launched an attack on Thursday on Liait Jar al-Nabi in Um Kaddada district in North Darfur state, and killed the four policemen in the ensuing battle.

The rebels totally destroyed the Sudatel building and ransacked the market of the town, al-Hayat said while quoting sources as saying this was a major violation by the rebels of the ceasefire agreement of last April.