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Sudan Denies Some Expelled NGOs Returning

Sudan is denying United Nations claims that some aid groups that were expelled from the country in March are being allowed to return by making slight organizational name changes. The groups were kicked out following the International Criminal Court's issuance of an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes.

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told the Security Council Thursday that during his recent visit to Khartoum, government officials made clear to him both in private and in public that new aid groups and those with new names and logos are welcome in the country.

"Four of the expelled NGOs have taken advantage of this latter flexibility and this week completed initial registration processes in Khartoum," he said.

Holmes said the four organizations are CARE International, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and PADCO.

But Sudan's Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement Thursday denying that some of the aid groups kicked out of the country would be allowed to return.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad echoed that, telling VOA that those who have been expelled will not be allowed to circumvent the government's order.

"The people put it like we are throwing them from the window and they are coming from the door, or visa-versa. It is not like this. Those that have been expelled are expelled. They are not being allowed to come back. But whoever would like to apply afresh, credentials will be checked and a decision will be taken on a case-by-case basis," he said.

In March, the International Criminal Court at The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's president on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in the Darfur region of his country since 2003.

President Bashir responded by kicking out 13 of the largest international aid organizations working in Darfur, as well as revoking the licenses of three national NGOs, leaving more than a million people at risk of insufficient food, water, sanitation and healthcare.

Holmes said Sudanese government efforts to fill the most critical gaps have been inadequate, but have for the moment prevented a secondary humanitarian crisis from erupting. But he warned that the looming rainy season could present new challenges.