UN to discuss Sudan decision to expel aid groups

Other News Materials 6 March 2009 10:36 (UTC +04:00)

The U.N. Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss Khartoum's decision to expel more than a dozen aid organizations from Darfur, raising fears of a staggering humanitarian crisis after Sudan's president was indicted for war crimes, council diplomats said.

The council was scheduled to receive a briefing from a U.N. humanitarian official about the situation on the ground in Darfur, where some 4.7 million people depend on aid, according to the diplomats, reported Alarabiya.

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

U.S. officials expressed deep concern that, if carried out, the order "could prompt a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions in Sudan," U.S. State Department acting deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid said.

"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 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.

A Libyan diplomat told Reuters his delegation will raise Arab League and African Union requests to meet with Security Council members to discuss suspending the International Criminal Court's proceedings against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Western diplomats said the 15-member council was not expected to take any action. Libya, which holds the council's rotating presidency this month, hopes to organize a council meeting with AU and Arab League officials, the Libyan diplomat said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said earlier on Thursday that aid operations in Darfur would be "irrevocably damaged" if the Sudanese government implements its decision to expel 13 non-governmental relief organizations from Darfur. He urged Khartoum to reconsider.

Deputy U.N. humanitarian chief Catherine Bragg said the United Nations had received reports that some aid workers were being harassed and detained by Sudanese security forces, following the arrest order for Bashir issued by the ICC in The Hague.