Sudan lifts ban on Red Cross operations

Geneva - The Red Cross said on Monday that Sudan had ended a ban on its aid operations, imposed by the government in February.

In a statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Khartoum had opted to lift the suspension even though discussions on the issue had not yet wrapped up.

"The lifting of the suspension while the dialogue continues is a positive step," said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan.

"It will allow us to resume our humanitarian work and our aid will again reach conflict- and violence-affected people. This is good news," he said.

Sudan called a halt to ICRC operations on 1 February, accusing the neutral, Swiss-based aid organisation of violating guidelines for working in the war-torn country.

Specifically, Khartoum said that the ICRC had failed in some cases to work via the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.

The ICRC had only cited "technical issues" as the reason for the suspension.

The restriction came after a string of moves against other foreign aid organisations in the country, where rebels are fighting the government in Darfur, the Kordofan region and Blue Nile state.

On the ground

"Our priority is to have our staff back on the ground as quickly as possible," said Sandoz.

"As the humanitarian situation has changed since February, we will start by carrying out assessments of needs in conflict areas. We will then decide on what can be done, and re-adapt our capacity accordingly," he added.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978.

In 2003, it extended its operations to Darfur, where it helps people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.

As a neutral intermediary, the Red Cross has facilitated the handover and repatriation of numerous prisoners held by armed groups in the troubled Darfur region.

The agency has also provided health services, food aid, seeds, tools, hand pumps and other assistance which helped more than 1.5 million people in restive parts of the country last year.

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