Earlier on Thursday, UN chief Kofi Annan told the Security Council "there is no time to waste" in solving Sudan's crises, and called on the ambassadors "send an urgent message" to this effect to warring parties.

  

"We just finished a discussion of the draft resolution and all 15 members of the Council are in agreement so it will be adopted tomorrow," Council President John Danforth told reporters after the first day of a special session of the Council in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Thursday.

  

Although the war that began in 1983 between Khartoum and the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has been on hold pending talks in the Kenyan town of Naivasha for the last two years, a separate devastating conflict has raged in the western region of Darfur since February 2003.

 

Carrots offered

 

Danforth explained that the main thrust of this new resolution was to pressure Khartoum and the SPLM/A to cap the Naivasha talks with a comprehensive peace accord.

 

US special envoy John Danforth
called the resolution 'balanced'

The draft resolution calls for an end to attacks against civilians in Darfur and dangles the prospect of massive development aid once the Naivasha talks are clinched.

  

"I think it is a good balanced resolution ... . It is one that clearly recognises the tragedy of Darfur and the fact that we have already passed two resolutions on this subject," Danforth said.

  

The US ambassador was the driving force behind the document and the decision to have the Security Council meet outside its New York headquarters for the first time in 14 years.

 

'No serious obstacle'

  

Danforth announced that Khartoum and the SPLM/A would on Friday promise the council in writing to wrap up their negotiations, which have already delivered crucial power- and wealth-sharing protocols, by the end of the year.

 

Addressing the council in Nairobi, SPLM/A leader John Garang said he was committed to the new year-end deadline.

  

"I see no reason, no serious obstacle, that would prevent us from signing the final peace agreement by the end of this year 2004," he said.

  

"I see no reason, no serious obstacle, that would prevent us from signing the final peace agreement by the end
of this year 2004"

John Garang,
SPLM/A leader

While his negotiating counterpart, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, only spoke of signing "as soon as possible", a government official said earlier this week that Khartoum was also committed to signing by the end of the year.

  

What remains to be ironed out, Danforth said, is limited to "almost a math problem" about which side pays for rebels who do not join regular government forces after the peace settlement.

 

Approach slammed

  

In a related development, Human Rights Watch on Thursday slammed the decision by the Security Council to remove the threat of sanctions against Sudan's government over the Darfur conflict as "very bad" for the body's credibility.

  

The more moderate approach to be adopted in a resolution by a special session of the UN Security Council in Nairobi was "very bad for the Security Council because it will definitively give the government of Sudan the idea that they can thumb their nose at the Security Council and not have to pay and not have to face any sanctions", it said.