Sudan clears UN visit to Darfur

Sudan has said it will allow Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary, to visit Darfur, three days after it barred his flight to the conflict-ridden region of the country.

    Egeland was earlier barred from visiting the strife-torn region

    Elsamani Elwasilah Elsamani, Sudan's state minister for foreign affairs, said in a press statement on Wednesday that "we reiterate our commitment to receive concerned officials from the United Nations and all other those who are engaged in extending humanitarian aid and assistance".

    The visit of Egeland, the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, had been postponed for 10 days because of "internal reasons", the statement said, without elaboration.

    Egeland arrived in southern Sudan on the weekend, but was told his plane would not be allowed to land in either Khartoum, the national capital, or Darfur, where UN agencies are providing relief and assistance to hundreds of thousands of people.

    Officials concerned

    On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expressed concern at Sudan's decision to bar Egeland and Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, expressed "regret" at the move.

    Jan Pronk sought an explanation
    from the Sudan government

    The top UN envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk, had written to the government asking for an explanation of its barring Egeland, who is due to report to the Security Council on the situation in Darfur.

    Egeland said on Monday he suspected the government did not want him to see what was happening in Darfur.

    "I can only believe that they don't want me to see how bad the situation has become for the civilian population in South Darfur, in West Darfur," Egeland said.

    He recalled that he had also been barred from visiting Darfur in 2004 "when ethnic cleansing was at its worst".

    The United Nations has described Darfur as the site of the world's gravest humanitarian crisis.

    The 3-year-old conflict setting the Arab-dominated government and militias against ethnic African tribes has left some 180,000 dead - most from disease and hunger - and displaced another 2 million people from their homes.

    Sudan's government and rebels in Darfur have made little headway in peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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