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Britain's PM asks 'whole world' to pressure Sudan

March 26, 2009 7:45am
UNITED NATIONS – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday he wants "the whole world" to demand that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir reverse his expulsion of 13 foreign aid organizations and three local ones that worked in Darfur.

"The humanitarian agencies that are working in Sudan should be allowed to stay there and continue their work," Brown told reporters at U.N. headquarters during a brief appearance with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Brown had called on Ban for a meeting mainly to discuss the global financial crisis, but Sudan also came up.

"It is very important that we send a message to the president of Sudan that humanitarian agencies are doing vital work," Brown said. "And so, even at this stage, I want the whole world to ask him to remove the ban on humanitarian agencies, to recognize that they are absolutely essential to the protection of people in Sudan."

The British leader's comments came as al-Bashir was welcomed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Wednesday, despite an international warrant seeking the Sudanese leader's arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Al-Bashir's defiant travels abroad — he also went to Eritrea — followed assurances from the 22-nation Arab League that it would not act on the warrant. Al-Bashir also plans to attend an Arab summit in Qatar at the end of the month.

Al-Bashir expelled the aid groups soon after the International Criminal Court issued the warrant on March 4.

Brown also pointed to a joint U.N.-Sudanese assessment this week that if the gaps in aid aren't filled soon, more than 1 million people in Darfur will go without food in May. Some 850,000 people are at risk of losing drinking water and 600,000 are in danger of lacking material to build shelter ahead of the upcoming rainy season.

"His government now recognizes that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be displaced, many are to be without food, many are to be homeless, as a result of the loss of the humanitarian work in Sudan," Brown said.

Al-Bashir's Arab-led government has been battling ethnic African rebels in the region since 2003, and an estimated 300,000 people have died in fighting. About 4.7 million people in Darfur depend on humanitarian aid. - GMANews.TV