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Sudan expels aid agencies

Thursday 05 March 2009 10:01 GMT

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced today that 10 foreign aid agencies had been expelled, in his first public response to the International Criminal Court's call for his arrest on war crimes charges.

The arrest warrant issued yesterday for atrocities in Sudan's western Darfur region is the first against a sitting head of state by the Hague-based ICC.

"We will act as a responsible government," Bashir told a meeting of top politicians and cabinet members in response to the arrest warrant, while adding that Sudan would act decisively against anyone threatening stability.

"We have expelled 10 foreign organisations ... after monitoring activities that act in contradiction to all regulation and laws," he said.

China urged the UN Security Council today to heed calls from African and Arab countries and suspend the case against Bashir, but the United States has welcomed the action.

The ICC, set up in 2002, indicted Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which included murder, rape and torture. The three-judge panel said it had insufficient grounds for genocide.

Hours after the warrant was issued, Sudan revoked the licences of several foreign aid agencies.

UN and other agencies are running the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur, a mainly desert region in western Sudan. International experts say at least 200,000 people have been killed there, while Khartoum says 10,000 have died.

A further 2.7 million people are estimated to have been uprooted by the conflict, which began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

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