US urges Sudan to reconsider expulsion of aid groups

March 6, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Mar 6 – The United States and other countries are urging Sudan to reverse its decision to expel aid groups who help vulnerable populations throughout the country, a US official said Thursday.

Sudan ordered the expulsion of 13 international agencies it accused of helping the International Criminal Court issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

US officials are expressing deep concern that, if carried out, the order "could prompt a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions in Sudan," according to US State Department acting deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid.

"A number of countries are trying to convince the Sudanese government to reconsider this action," Duguid told reporters. "The United States is one of them."

Duguid, who did not identify the other countries, said the United States was pressing its case "both on the ground (in Khartoum) and in New York," where the United Nations is based.

Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, John Lueth Ukec, has accused some aid agencies of spreading "lies" among the population as well as having "fabricated" reports.

Duguid said the expulsion decision "seems to me to be against Sudan’s own interest and is certainly not helpful to the people who need aid in the country.

"They (Sudanese) should reconsider their position on this, because the vulnerable populations throughout Sudan rely heavily on international organizations who deliver them much-needed aid," he added.

"It’s unclear whether (the decision was) announced by the government or the particular commission that oversees the aid groups in Sudan," he said.

On Wednesday, Sudan ordered the expulsion of the agencies that provide essential aid to the estimated 2.7 million people made homeless by the war in Darfur.

International aid agency Oxfam said its license to operate in northern Sudan had been revoked, but it had appealed to Khartoum to reverse the decision.

Sudan warned on Thursday it could expel more aid agencies.


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