Sudan to Close Airspace to Flights Supplying Rebels
Sudan is closing its airspace to relief flights from abroad to southern rebel areas and is considering a ban on humanitarian groups working in Khartoum, accusing them of shipping arms and food to the rebels.
"Sudan's airspace will be closed to all relief aircraft coming from abroad with arms and food assistance for the rebel movement," the Sudan People's Liberation Army, President Omar Bashir said in a speech late Saturday.
In a heated speech before senior government officials at the Republican Palace, Bashir nevertheless did not specify when the airspace will actually close or how the closure will be enforced.
He insisted his government would ensure that proper relief would still reach the people who need it in war-hit southern Sudan.
Meanwhile, he said his government is considering a ban on UN-sponsored Operation Lifeline-Sudan (OLS) as well as on international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating inside the country.
He accused them of providing the SPLA with arms as well as food.
"We will not tolerate supplying the rebel movement with weapons and food through Operation Lifeline-Sudan and will not allow OLS to become a death line for the Sudanese people," Bashir said.
"It has become clear to us that some organizations and ill-natured people have engaged themselves in offering support and reinforcement to the rebel movement," Bashir said.
The speech came amid a general mobilization of the army declared following reports of escalating fighting in southern Sudan's Bahr al-Ghazal region and military concentrations on Sudan's eastern border with Eritrea.
The mainly Christian and animist rebels of southern Sudan have been fighting Khartoum's successive Arab and Islamic governments since 1983 and were joined in 1995 by northern opposition groups - KHARTOUM (AFP)
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