UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council on Monday to take urgent action to address a worsening situation in Sudan's Darfur region.
"The tragedy in Darfur has reached a critical moment. It merits this council's closest attention and urgent action," Annan told the 15-member council.
At the start of the consultations, Annan and the council observed a minute of silence in tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed during the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States exactly five years ago.
The UN chief said the recent deployment of thousands of Sudanese troops to North Darfur, which has been subjected to renewed aerial bombing, is in clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
"I strongly condemn this escalation. The government should stop its offensive immediately and refrain from any further such action, " he said.
The total number of displaced people in Darfur now stands at 1. 9 million, with nearly 3 million people depending on international aid for food, shelter and medical treatment, he said.
The fighting has impeded humanitarian work, cutting off some 355,000 people in North Darfur from food aid most for the third consecutive month.
Humanitarian workers have continued to come under attack, with twelve aid workers killed in the last two months alone -- more than in the previous two years, he noted.
He reiterated a call on the Sudanese government to accept Resolution 1706 adopted by the council and give its consent to the transition from the 7,000 African Union (AU) troops to an enhanced UN peacekeeping force. But he acknowledged that without Khartoum's consent the transfer would not be possible.
The council adopted Resolution 1706 on August 31 that calls for a 17,000-strong UN force and up to 3,300 civilian police in Darfur to take over from the AU troops.
Khartoum so far has rejected the idea of deploying the UN troops, hinting that it may even ask the AU forces to leave after their mandate expires by the end of this month.