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Sudan Orders Aid Groups Out of Poor Region

Wire Report | 6/1/2012, 7:23 p.m.

KHARTOUM - Sudan is expelling four foreign aid groups from its restive eastern region, government and aid officials said on Friday, the latest restrictions on aid agencies in the violence-marred African country.

A senior official in Khartoum said the four groups had been asked to stop all projects in the underdeveloped east, one of Sudan's poorest regions, but could stay in the country.

"They didn't implement the projects we asked them to do," the official with the Humanitarian Affairs Commission told Reuters, declining to elaborate.

He said the four included aid groups Goal of Ireland and the Swedish chapter of Save the Children.

The move came amid concerns over the humanitarian situation in some parts of the country and over aid agencies' access to remote or fighting areas.

On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council expressed concern over a lack of access for aid groups and U.N. agencies in the southern border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile where the army has been fighting rebels since last year.

Last week Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said government restrictions had forced it to halt key medical supplies in Darfur, where rebels took up arms in 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglecting the Western region.

A lingering insurgency in the eastern region mostly ended with a 2006 agreement with local movement Eastern Front. But since then dissent and anger have been simmering over what opposition activists say is Karthoum's failure to provide economic aid agreed under the deal.

Goal of Ireland and the Save the Children in Sweden confirmed they had been asked to leave eastern Sudan within one month.

"We didn't get any indication before," said Eric Astron, a spokesman for Save the Children in Sweden. "We are trying to find out the reasons."

It was not immediately clear which other groups had been expelled. The government official said another Irish group and a Japanese aid agency had been asked to end projects in the region, but did not name them.

Sudan faced international condemnation when it expelled 13 leading aid groups including Oxfam and the U.S. branch of Save the Children in March 2009, accusing them of passing information to the International Criminal Court.

Sudan requires U.N. agencies in both states to rely mostly on local staff as travel permits for foreigners are hard to get.

Sudan suffers from a severe economic crisis after losing much of its oil wealth to South Sudan, which became independent in July. Rising social pressure and inflation have triggered small protests in Khartoum and eastern Sudan.