Sudan Insists on Full Control over Relief Shipments
The Sudanese government vowed Monday to fully supervise delivery of humanitarian aid to southern Sudan, which it charges is being used to funnel weapons to the rebels.
Khartoum "will not allow the exploitation of relief facilities for the delivery of supplies that fan the fighting and will exercise full control of the relief operations," government spokesman Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani said.
Atabani said in a statement that the government "sticks to its right of supervising humanitarian supplies as indicated in the" 1987 agreement with the UN-sponsored Operation Lifeline-Sudan (OLS).
Khartoum "will not consent to dispatching such assistance without government control" although it voiced its "full" commitment to ensuring that aid is sent to those who need it, Atabani said.
His statements were softer than Saturday's fiery speech by President Omar Bashir, who said Sudan was closing its airspace to relief flights from abroad and was considering a ban on the OLS for allegedly helping the rebels.
However, Bashir's peace talks adviser Mutref Siddeiq told Monday's Sahafi Ad-Dawli daily that Khartoum had "concrete evidence" the OLS was helping to arm the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
"The UN has no right to object to a revision of the OLS agreement," which was needed because of "unfair relief distribution and violation of the country's sovereignty," Siddeiq was quoted as saying.
The United Nations admitted in March that an OLS flight had unwittingly carried three rebel militia commanders two months earlier, provoking the abduction of four UN staff members by a rival pro-Khartoum militia.
Siddeiq renewed Sudanese calls to have the OLS move its headquarters from Lokichokio in northern Kenya to Sudan, saying relief is already being flown successfully from Obeid in central Sudan and from the capital Khartoum.
Stressing zero government tolerance for aid groups that help the rebels, he warned that soon "strict measures will be clamped for regulation of operations of the foreign organizations in southern Sudan." - KHARTOUM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)