Sudan orders U.S. charity director to leave

Mon Aug 27, 2007 10:58am EDT

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KHARTOUM, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Sudan has expelled the country director of the U.S.-based aid group CARE for an undisclosed reason related to state security, a government official said on Monday.

Country director Paul Barker earlier told Reuters the Sudanese government's Humanitarian Aid Commission had given him 72 hours to leave the country without giving reasons for the decision.

Bakheit Yousef, deputy commissioner of the Humanitarian Aid Commission, told Reuters Barker's expulsion was not connected to his aid work.

"He was doing something related to intelligence or state security, not his humanitarian work. That was the main reason he has been ordered to leave," he said.

"This decision has been taken against an individual. CARE can continue its work as normal. CARE's headquarters can just send out someone else," he added.

Barker was the third prominent foreigner expelled from Sudan in less than a week. On Thursday Sudan told diplomats from Canada and the European Union to leave but it later allowed the EU ambassador to stay until his term expires next month.

Barker, a U.S. citizen, denied he had been carrying out any inappropriate work and said he was hopeful the government would hear his appeal.

"This has come as a huge surprise to us. I am very disappointed with the government's decision, which I believe was based on information that was taken out of context," Barker said.

Barker said the director of the Humanitarian Aid Commission called him in on Saturday. "He told me he had a letter from the highest levels of government saying that they could not renew my work permit and that I had to leave in 72 hours. He told me it was somebody in security but would not be more specific."

Barker said the only explanation he could think of was that the government was unhappy with an internal e-mail he had written to CARE staff in October and which was leaked to the Sudanese press earlier this year.

"It was an e-mail about the security of CARE staff, setting out various scenarios for what might happen in (the western region of) Darfur," said Barker, 53, who comes from Oregon.

"It was a totally appropriate email for a country director to write. But the government saw it as political analysis that was inappropriate for an aid organisation to make," he added.

Aid workers from other aid agencies who did not want to be named said the expulsion came at a time of growing tension between humanitarian officials and the government of Sudan.

In the cases of the two diplomats last week, state radio quoted the Sudanese Foreign Ministry as saying they had interfered in the internal affairs of the country.

Barker said CARE had spent more than $184 million on aid projects in Sudan since it arrived in the country in 1979. It has spent more than $60 million in the last three years, he added, mostly in the troubled Darfur region.

"We have been in Sudan through thick and thin, through some very difficult times. It is very important that this doesn't impact on our work in Sudan," he added.

Barker said he would be leaving for the Kenyan capital Nairobi with his wife as soon as he received an exit visa.




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