UNITED NATIONS, April 16 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday welcomed the offer of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to negotiate with the Lord's Resistance Army.
Just two days ago, the U.N. Security Council condemned the youthful rebel group's atrocities against civilians.
In a statement read by a spokeswoman, Annan urged the LRA, comprised overwhelmingly of children, many of them kidnapped, to "refrain from any further acts of violence against civilians and to respond positively to President Museveni's call for dialogue."
Annan called on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to Ugandans affected by the 18-year conflict, spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.
"All efforts must now be made to ensure a rapid and definitive end to the violence in the area," she said.
Annan's statement was in response to Museveni's announcement Wednesday reiterating his offer to talk with the LRA, either directly or through intermediaries. That coincided with a statement from the council saying such LRA crimes as abductions, sexual violence and sexual exploitation "should not remain unpunished."