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U.S. increases pressure on Sudan after expulsions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will be responsible for “every single death” caused by the expulsion of 13 foreign aid groups from Sudan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses a rally of soldiers in the capital Khartoum, March 16, 2009. Sudan's president said on Monday he wanted foreign aid groups to stop distributing aid in Sudan within a year, in an escalation in the country's defiant response to an international war crimes warrant against him. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh

“This is a horrendous situation that is going to cause untold misery and suffering for the people of Darfur, particularly those in the refugee camps,” Clinton said of Sudan’s decision to expel the aid groups earlier this month.

“The real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps,” she told reporters.

Clinton added that the United States planned to appoint a special envoy for Sudan in the coming days, following the tradition set by the Bush administration.

International experts say at least 200,000 people have been killed in Sudan’s western Darfur region, while Bashir’s government says 10,000 have died. The conflict, which has displaced more than 2.7 million people, flared when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

Khartoum ordered out the aid groups this month after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague issued an arrest warrant against Bashir for atrocities committed in Darfur.

The Sudanese government accused them of helping the ICC.

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Clinton said Bashir’s government now had assumed “an even greater sense of responsibility and infamy in the eyes of the world” and she called on governments supporting him to push for the return of the aid workers, or fill the gaps themselves.

“They must replace with money and personnel those who have been expelled so that innocent lives are not lost and further undermined,” Clinton said.


The United States has made concerted efforts in recent days to convince the Arab League, African Union and others with influence over Sudan, such as China, to get Bashir to reverse course, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

In his meeting last week with China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his “deep concern” about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Darfur and asked China to put pressure on Sudan’s government.

Many African and Arab governments say the Hague-based ICC’s move was counter-productive and hypocritical, saying it failed to tackle alleged war crimes by Israel against Arabs, or by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States, while not a member of the ICC, backed the decision to go after Bashir, who was indicted on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity but not for genocide.

Earlier this month Clinton said the Sudanese leader could “have his day in court” to prove his innocence. Wood added on Tuesday that the United States did not support any type of deferral of the ICC arrest warrant.

“It is a catastrophe that Bashir has made,” Wood said.

Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Paul Simao