Short under fire over Sudan

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The Independent Online
A COMMITTEE of MPs said they were "baffled" by International Development Secretary Clare Short's criticism of charities who launched an appeal for aid to tackle the famine in Sudan.

Ms Short said no extra money was needed. Instead, a ceasefire should be used to allow aid agencies to get existing food and medicines to the worst-hit areas.

The International Development Select Committee said it was "premature of the Secretary of State to announce in such bald terms that there was no lack of money or resources for Sudan".

Ms Short said the move by UNICEF and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which co-ordinates the relief work of 15 UK agencies, had reduced pressure on the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army to call a ceasefire.

The MPs said: "We see no reason why political pressure from the public is incompatible with public donations to a humanitarian appeal if non- Governmental organisations simultaneously engage the public in advocacy work."

International Development Committee member Ann Clwyd (Lab Cynon Valley) said there were serious questions about how Ms Short had come to her conclusions. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat International Development spokeswoman, Jenny Tonge, (Richmond Park), said Ms Short's intervention at such a difficult time had only made the situation worse.

Clare Short said both she and her department would be responding to the committee's "detailed recommendations" at a later date.

The Government had been instrumental in brokering a ceasefire. "We must increase the pressure for an end to the conflict so that the people of Sudan can rebuild their shattered lives," Ms Short said.