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From Riyadh, Warren Hoge reports that King Abdullah gave Ban Ki-moon an important boost in a discussion with Sudanese President Omar al Bashir.

The president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, came under pressure Thursday from Arab leaders to end the crisis in Darfur.

Mr. Bashir spent an hour and a half in a meeting on Wednesday afternoon with the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and a two-hour session with him lasting into Thursday morning that included King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia; Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League; and Alpha Oumar Konaré, chairman of the African Union.

“I think we made progress where there had been an impasse,” Mr. Ban said. “The king’s intervention very much supported my position.”

A United Nations official with experience in the region said: “These Arab discussions on Darfur are significant. There was a time when it was very difficult to raise the subject, but that’s no longer the case.”

In a speech to the opening session of the League of Arab States summit meeting, the usually defiant Mr. Bashir sounded a defensive note in trying to justify Sudan’s continuing resistance to the dispatch of United Nations peacekeepers to Darfur.

That a regional power like Saudi Arabia would take interest in the issue and help Ban make progress in negotiations with Bashir should be welcome news. Until now, many member states from the middle-east have been relatively silent on the crisis in Darfur.

Of course, we still have a very long way to go.