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Sudan lifts state of emergency in North Darfur
Updated: 2004-11-28 10:17

Sudan said it had lifted all restrictions on aid workers and revoked a state of emergency in the troubled North Darfur state on Saturday, after rebels pulled out from a town they occupied last week.

The United Nations condemned the attacks on Tawilla town last week, where rebels took control and killed dozens of policemen, in a move the international community said violated security protocols signed earlier this month between the warring parties in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

Following the attack, the World Food Program said it had withdrawn all its staff to the North Darfur capital of El Fasher and frozen all operations, leaving 300,000 refugees out of reach.

The United Nations says the rebellion has triggered one of the world's worst humanitarian crises with more than 1.6 million forced from their homes in Darfur.

The Governor of North Darfur state, Osman Kebir, told visiting European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, that all restrictions on aid work due to this emergency had been lifted.

"The situation is very normal now," Kebir said, "We are removing all the restrictions on humanitarian aid that were imposed because of the attacks on Tawilla," he said.

Michel said the tense security situation in Darfur had improved: "The security situation is of course very sensitive but I think there's a very slow improvement."

He declined to say whether the government had done enough to rein in mounted Arab militia, known locally as Janjaweed, in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. "I don't know if there are links between the government and these people but I have no evidence about that," he told reporters during a one-day visit to remote Darfur, his first trip abroad since taking office.

After years of skirmishes between Arab nomads and mostly non-Arab farmers over scarce resources in arid Darfur, rebels took up arms early last year accusing Khartoum of neglect and of arming the Janjaweed to loot and burn non-Arab villages.

While the government admits arming some militias to fight the rebels, it denies any link to the Janjaweed, calling them outlaws.

The United Nations has threatened Sudan with possible sanctions if it fails to stop the violence, which the United States calls genocide. The World Health Organization estimates more than 70,000 have died in Darfur since March from malnutrition and disease.

Michel will now travel to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the scene of talks to settle a separate, bloodier conflict in Sudan's south.

He said a southern peace deal, due by the end of the year, would be key for solving the problems in the rest of Africa's largest country.

"If there is an agreement, we have to take this agreement as a momentum in order to resolve the global package of problems which is existing in Darfur," he said, adding he saw goodwill and a willingness on the part of the government to take action.

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