Page last updated at 02:17 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

UN urges Sudanese rethink on aid

Women at a refugee camp outside the Darfur town of al-Fasher, Sudan (26/03/2009)
Sudan says the humanitarian situation in Dafur is under control

The United Nations Security Council has called on Sudan to reconsider its decision to expel foreign aid agencies from the troubled Darfur region.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir gave the order after an international arrest warrant was issued against him.

Correspondents say the council's move is significant as they had previously been unable to agree on a statement.

Sudan has said the humanitarian situation is under control and its decision is irreversible.

The current president of the council, Libyan ambassador Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam, read out a non-binding statement agreed by all 15 members.

It said the members "stressed the importance of continuing the distribution of humanitarian assistance to all the needy in Darfur".


The statement also called on Sudan to continue co-operating with the UN and to "reconsider the decision on suspending the activities of some non-government organisations in Sudan".

Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, said the humanitarian situation was "very much under control" and that Khartoum's decision was "irreversible".

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Bashir in early March, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes - the first such warrant for a serving president.

Mr Bashir is accused of orchestrating atrocities against civilians in Darfur, where his government has been battling rebels since 2003.

Hunger risk

According to the UN, up to 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict and 2.7 million driven from their homes.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Cairo, Egypt (25/03/2009)
Mr Bashir accused aid agencies of spying for the ICC

But Khartoum dismissed the ICC case as "a neo-colonialist plot" designed to destabilise the country and says the UN's figures are exaggerated.

Hours after the court's announcement, Mr Bashir ordered aid agencies to leave, saying some organisations were using aid as a cover to achieve a political agenda.

In all, 13 agencies, including Oxfam, Save the Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres, have been ordered to halt their operations in Darfur.

A joint Sudanese-UN study has said more than a million people in Darfur will go without food rations by May unless new aid agencies are deployed.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN says the council failed to reach agreement on a statement three weeks ago, following concerns expressed by China, an key ally and trading partner of Khartoum.

But it remains unclear what the council will do if President Bashir does not change his mind, says our correspondent.

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