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Obama Urges Sudan to Allow Aid Groups to Return


U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Sudan's government to let recently expelled humanitarian aid groups return to the country. Mr. Obama is sending an envoy to Khartoum this week to make his case.

Despite the urgency of the global financial crisis and the failing U.S. auto industry, President Obama says attention must be paid to the humanitarian disaster in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

"I wanted us to make sure that we were not losing sight of something that has been an ongoing international crisis, and that is the situation in Darfur," he said.

The International Criminal Court recently issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur. Afterward, Mr. Bashir expelled 13 non-governmental organizations he accuses of plotting with the court.

Before leaving for Europe, Mr. Obama said Monday the Sudanese leader's actions have caused a crisis.

"We have an immediate crisis prompted by the Khartoum government's expulsion of non-governmental organizations that are providing aid to displaced persons inside of Sudan," he said.

Mr. Obama said immediate action is needed to prevent the humanitarian situation from growing worse.

"We have to figure out a mechanism to get those NGO's back in place, to reverse that decision, or to find some mechanism whereby we avert an enormous humanitarian crisis," he said.

The president has appointed a special envoy, retired Air Force Major General Scott Gration, and is sending him to Khartoum this week to urge the Sudanese government to allow the aid groups to return.

Mr. Obama discussed the issue in meetings with activists and members of Congress.

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