Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Sudan to 'expel all aid groups'

President Bashir on top of a vehicle gestures to army soldiers during a military rally in Khartoum 16 March
Mr Bashir had already ordered 13 large foreign aid agencies to stop work

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir says he wants all international aid groups out of the country within a year.

Foreign organisations could drop relief supplies at airports and let Sudanese organisations take care of it, the president told a military rally.

Sudan has already expelled 13 large foreign agencies, mostly from Darfur.

Mr Bashir accuses them of spying for the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

He also shut down three local aid groups, including one of the largest Sudanese groups operating in Darfur.

If they want to bring relief, let them drop it at airports or seaports
President Omar al-Bashir

The United Nations said the expulsions had left millions at risk of a humanitarian crisis.

Speaking to a rally of security forces in the capital, Khartoum, the president said all foreign relief groups should go.

"We directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to Sudanise voluntary work," he told a crowd of thousands of supporters.

"Within a year, we don't want to see any foreign aid group dealing with a Sudanese citizen.

"If they want to bring relief, let them drop it at airports or seaports. Let the national organisations deal with our citizens," Mr Bashir said.

The move could affect the work of more than 70 organisations operating in Darfur and other strife-torn areas.


Later, State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun said that the order would not affect UN agencies.

Mr Bashir did not specify how the order would be carried out, or if it would affect aid programmes in the semi-autonomous south.

The earlier expulsion of 13 aid agencies, including Oxfam, Save the Children and two branches of Medecins Sans Frontieres, only affected operations in the north.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court seeking Mr Bashir's arrest accuses him of orchestrating atrocities against civilians in Darfur, where his Arab-led government has been battling black African rebels since 2003.

Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

Sudan denies the charges and says the figures are exaggerated.

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