U.N. aid chief says Sudanese rebels obstructing aid deal

KHARTOUM Thu May 23, 2013 2:59pm EDT

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), pauses during a news conference after the seventh Syrian Humanitarian Forum at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), pauses during a news conference after the seventh Syrian Humanitarian Forum at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese insurgents are obstructing a deal to deliver much-needed aid into areas under their control in two Sudanese states where almost a million people have been forced from their homes, the U.N. aid chief said on Thursday.

The United Nations has been trying to get aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where Sudan's army has been fighting the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) for almost two years.

Both states are in Khartoum-ruled Sudan, from which the new nation of South Sudan broke away in 2011 under a peace deal which ended decades of civil war. South Sudan adjoins both South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Hundreds of thousands of SPLM-North supporters who sided with the south during the long armed conflict were left on the Sudan side of the border after South Sudan's secession and now complain of marginalization.

In August, the U.N. helped broker a deal with Khartoum and the SPLM-North to allow, via Sudanese soil, food into rebel-held areas in both states, where aid groups have warned of famine.

While the U.N. in the past often accused Sudan of restricting access of aid workers to both states, U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos has now criticized the SPLM-North.

"The government of Sudan have said very clearly that they are committed to implementation of that agreement," Amos said after meeting President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum.

"What the SPLM-North are now saying is that they will not allow the United Nations to cross from government-controlled into SPLM-North-held areas to deliver supplies, that this has got to be done across (international) borders."

"That was never the intention of the agreement that was signed," she said, adding talks would continue.

The SPLM-North, which could not immediately be reached for comment, has accused Sudan of blocking aid and demanded that food be delivered via Ethiopia or South Sudan. Sudan has denied the allegation.

Amos also criticized a rebel alliance, to which the SPLM-North belongs, for attacking a central Sudanese city in April.

"I was shocked to hear detailed reports of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF)," she said, referring to the rebel alliance.

"I condemn these attacks on civilians in the strongest terms.

The SRF is fighting in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and the western region of Darfur to overthrow Bashir and end what it sees as the marginalization of minority groups.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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