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Sudan to allow return of Darfur aid
US senator on visit says Khartoum has agreed to let some aid return to war-torn region.
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2009 07:45 GMT

Kerry, left, is expected to visit Darfur on his three-day visit to Sudan [EPA]

The Sudanese government has agreed to allow some aid groups back into the war-torn western Darfur region, more than a month after over a dozen aid groups were expelled from the area, a visiting US senator says.

"Thanks to the leadership of the [US] president's special envoy, General Scott Gration, and thanks to the willingness of the government here to engage in a new dialogue with us, some of that capacity for humanitarian assistance will be restored," John Kerry said on Thursday.

Kerry was speaking to reporters in Khartoum on Thursday after meeting senior members of the Sudanese government.

The former US presidential candidate is on a three-day visit, the second by a US official since the ICC issued the arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president, but is not expected to meet him.

Al-Bashir had expelled 13 international aid groups and three local ones after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Kerry, who is also the senate's foreign relations chairman, said the US wanted to strengthen ties with Sudan.

His trip, which is expected to include a visit to Darfur, comes a week after a visit by Gration, the US envoy to Sudan.

'Softened stance'

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Washington's overtures are seen as a softening of its stance on al-Bashir, particularly after Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said shortly after the expulsion of aid groups that al-Bashir would be held responsible for "every single death" in the places where the agencies had operated from.

Relations between the US and Khartoum had been strained for many years, particularly after the US imposed sanctions in 1997 for harbouring Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.
  
It also bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan a year later, saying  the site was used to make chemical weapons.

The UN says that the war in Darfur that began in 2003 has killed about 300,000 people. Khartoum disputes the figure and says only 10,000 people have died in the conflict.

The unrest was triggered by a rebellion started by Darfuris who accuse the government of marginalising them.

Source:
Agencies
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