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U.S. mulling aid operation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan: report

January 19, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The United States is considering taking a unilateral move that would aim at providing aid to hundreds of thousands of people who face the daunting prospect of famine in Sudan’s border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, according to a newspaper report.

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Former U.S. Special envoy Princeton Lyman (AFP)

Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) is battling rebels from the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in the two states since June 2011 in South Kordofan and September 2011 in Blue Nile.

The United Nations humanitarian chief Valery Amos visited Khartoum earlier this month to discuss the humanitarian situation in the two states with the Sudanese officials and called on the government to allow UN and international aid workers to reach the rebel controlled areas. But Sudanese officials refused this request.

The U.S. special envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman warned during his visit to South Africa this week of a humanitarian disaster according to statements carried by CNN.

He said that half a million people will face an emergency bordering on famine by March if international humanitarian organizations are not allowed into these areas.

"There is a looming humanitarian disaster in Sudan," Lyman warned in the South African capital Pretoria as part of his effort to rally support for African intervention in Sudan.

"Africa needs to speak with one voice," Lyman said. "Africa needs to say, ’We cannot allow this to happen.’"

Groups like the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF must be able to work in the border areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, he said.

The U.S. official urged South Africa to press Sudan on allowing aid groups particularly as it is the rotating president of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) this month.

"As chair of the United Nations Security Council this month, South Africa can play a role in preventing a colossal disaster," Lyman said.

But the U.S. appears to also be preparing contingency plan in case Khartoum continues to resist.

We are simply not going to sit back and watch while 100,000 people starve to death," a state department official, speaking on condition of anonymity told The National newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates.

"We are actively planning and Khartoum knows this." the official added.

But some Sudan experts warned about such a move.

"Such a move could potentially prompt a negative response from Khartoum, cause further deterioration of US-Sudan relations, and generate consternation from those already made wary by international intervention in Libya” said Zach Vertin, a Sudan analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

"Khartoum will certainly try to portray it as South Sudanese assistance to a rebel group, rather than as a humanitarian response to Khartoum’s own intransigence," said John Ashworth, an expert on the region who has spent 28 years in Sudan and South Sudan.

The Sudanese ambassador to South Africa, Ali Yusuf Alsharif, warned that the situation in his country could become worse than Somalia — but he said that outside pressure will further complicate the situation.

"The world has looked at Somalia, not knowing what to do," he said at the conference. "But if you push everyone (in Sudan), you could have a situation worse than Somalia."

In a related issue a delegation from SPLM-N in the United States met with UN Humanitarian Chief on Wednesday for discussions on the situation the ground in the two states.

“The SPLMN affirmed its position that negotiations about the humanitarian assistance to the IDPs in South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States, need to follow a tripartite approach that includes the United Nation, the SPLMN and the regime in Khartoum, since the majority of those IDPs are in the SPLMN controlled areas” said a statement by the SPLM-N.

“The SPLMN requested the Office of the Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nation Security Council to address the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States seriously given the fact that General Elbashir Government is deliberately using food as a weapon and denying access for humanitarian assistance which constitutes a war crime. The displacement of the civil population of South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile States came as direct result of the Khartoum government policies of targeting the civilian population”.

Today the Sudanese army confirmed clashes with SPLM-N in the southern part of the Blue Nile state.

"The army was clearing the areas of rebels," SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad said, denying that a helicopter had been shot down as SPLM-N claimed.

Teh rebel group said it mnaged to destroy five military vehicles.

(ST)