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Parliament & Politics: Short defends famine stance

CLARE SHORT, the Secretary of State for International Development, yesterday defended her criticisms of cash appeals to help the starving in Sudan in the face of hostile questioning from MPs.

Ms Short sparked controversy when she argued that public appeals by charities were obscuring the roots of the problems in Sudan and creating "compassion fatigue" among the public.

Appearing before the Commons International Development Committee yesterday afternoon, Ms Short again argued that money was available for the aid agencies to relieve the Sudanese famine, and that the real problem was overcoming travel problems generated by the conflict there and gaining access to the starving.

But Ann Clwyd, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley, who has just returned from a fact- finding trip to Sudan, challenged Ms Short's reasoning, saying she had been told that funding was a problem and that relief flights to famine- affected areas had been cut.

At the conclusion of repeated exchanges over the issue, Ms Short accused Ms Clwyd of raking over old ground.

"You want to stoke an old row that has now been explained," Ms Short claimed.

It would be more constructive for critics to put their energy into efforts to pressurise the Sudanese government into agreeing a ceasefire and lifting the blockade on rebel held areas in the south so food could get through, she argued.