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Sudan Denies a United Nations Human Rights Team Entry to the Country


The Sudanese government Monday said it would deny visas to a U.N. human rights mission due to arrive this week to investigate alleged abuses in Darfur. The team leader says it is in Sudan's interest to open up to the mission. Meanwhile, the leader of the U.N.'s food program says there are plans to feed six million people in the Sudan -- if relief workers can reach those in need. VOA's Jim Fry reports.

The six-member U.N. human rights team was due to arrive this week in Sudan... but the Khartoum government announced it would deny the team visas unless it replaces one member.

In Geneva last weekend, officials admitted the mission is contentious.

Mission Leader Jody Williams stood her ground against Sudan's objection "This is the mission composition today and this is the way it's staying."

The Sudanese foreign ministry said one member of the delegation is unacceptable because of past comments about the Sudan. Williams said it is in the interest of the Sudanese government to allow the team to investigate possible human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the executive director of the U.N.’s food program said the U.N. will feed twice as many people this year as last in the Sudan. In an interview with the VOA, Jim Morris said that can only happen if relief workers can gain access to war torn areas. "We're prepared to feed up to six million people there this year. It's a very tough environment to work in. Our people are at risk. We had a truck driver killed not so long ago."

The U.N. fed three million people last year but a spokeswoman says the four-year-old civil war in the Darfur region kept food from hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Morris says there is new hope in southern Sudan. "We were helped last year with the African Union troops. My hope is there will be U.N. peacekeeping troops there. The root of all of the problems in the Sudan are tied back to security."

The human rights mission is still waiting for entry to Sudan; leader Jody Williams insists her team is independent: "Nobody is telling us what to think. Nobody is telling us what to say. Nobody is telling us what to write."

A spokeswoman said on Monday the team remains hopeful Sudan will grant the visas.

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