Sudanese President Pledges Safety of UN Flights
Sudanese President Omar Bashir has promised to ensure the safety of humanitarian operations in his country, the UN Security Council was told on Friday.
The United Nations suspended relief flights to Sudan on Tuesday after humanitarian agencies working with the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) accused the government of stepping up bombing raids on civilian targets.
A senior official of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Kevin Kennedy, told the council that "should the suspension remain in place for long, the impact will be serious and life-threatening."
Kennedy, who later spoke to reporters, said "easily one million people will be at risk, especially in war-affected areas such as Bahr al-Ghazal, Western Upper Nile and Upper Nile."
Announcing the decision to suspend flights, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "deeply concerned over the security of humanitarian personnel and facilities belonging to Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS)."
He said recent incidents had taken place "despite assurances from the government of Sudan that bombings of locations used by UN/OLS would not reoccur."
Kennedy told the council that "in response to a request from the Secretary General, President Bashir has confirmed the government's support for OLS operations and pledged to take all measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian operations."
In the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, the government said the suspension of relief flights would "add to the suffering" in the south, where it has been fighting the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) for 17 years.
In a statement, Minister of State for Social Affairs Chuol Deng urged Annan to intervene to have relief flights resume.
Deng called on the UN and the international community to "exercise adequate pressure on the rebel movement to accept a comprehensive cease-fire."
But he made no reference to the accusations of government air raids on civilian targets and UN relief centers.
After Kennedy's briefing, the Security Council issued a statement urging "the Sudanese government and all others concerned to live up to their obligations to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian operations."
The council exhorted both the government and the rebels to resume the humanitarian cease-fire that expired on July 15th - UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)