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UN may get aid monitors for Sudan

2012-01-19 07:38

New York - The United Nations may ask international observers to monitor aid going into two conflict-stricken regions of Sudan following government claims that it is being diverted to rebels, a UN official said on Wednesday.

The UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the United Nations is negotiating with the African Union and Arab League about providing observers in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The United Nations has backed statements by the United States that there could be a famine in the two states unless urgent aid is allowed in. The United States has said more than 500 000 people have already been displaced or seriously affected by the crisis.

Amos told reporters the main concern was for civilians in areas held by SPLM-North rebels who are battling government forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The United Nations has been negotiating with Sudan to get access from government areas into zones held by the SPLM-North, which used to be allied with the South Sudanese rebels who formally set up a separate nation last year.

She said a a new request to Khartoum will respond to "the concerns of the government of Sudan about diversion of aid".

"We are discussing with our colleagues in the African Union and the League of Arab States, ways in which we can utilize monitors to perhaps give the government of Sudan the confidence that they are looking for," Amos said.

Sudan's UN ambassador on Tuesday accused international aid workers of using UN flights to carry arms and ammunition for rebels fighting government forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Deliberate policy

Amos told AFP there was "no evidence" of UN flights carrying material for rebels and that Sudan had never provided information to back the claim.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Tuesday that the government's refusal to allow aid groups access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile risked causing a famine from March.

Rice accused Sudan of instituting a "deliberate policy" of blocking aid organisations and said that if the famine started, the UN Security Council would have to consider "options" to help the stricken populations of the two states.

Amos said she had stressed in talks in Khartoum two weeks ago "that we are extremely concerned by the high levels of malnutrition that we see in refugees who have crossed the borders from South Kordofan and Blue Nile into South Sudan."

She said data from UN staff in the region supports that given by a private researchers. Food stocks are "deteriorating to such an extent that we could in March reach famine conditions", Amos said.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the conflict and now live in camps in neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia.

South Kordofan, a key oil producing zone, remained under Khartoum's administration when South Sudan became independent in July. A government offensive against the rebels has mounted since June.