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Sudan prevents UN official overflying Darfur

Written by: Staff
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RUMBEK, Sudan, Apr 4 (Reuters) The Sudanese government today denied a top UN official permission to fly over the western region of Darfur on his way to visit Sudanese refugees in neighbouring Chad, UN officials said.

The decision is the latest setback for the UN's top humanitarian official in the country Jan Egeland, already prevented from visiting Darfur and the capital Khartoum.

The UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs said the bans reflect deteriorating relations between the United Nations and the government over the deployment of a possible UN mission in Darfur.

''One of the biggest and most effective humanitarian operations on earth ... is in Darfur,'' Egeland told reporters in Rumbek.

''In 2006 it is changing dramatically for the worse and I think that is the background for why I was blocked again this year from going,'' he said.

Egeland was planning to fly out of the southern town of Rumbek this afternoon after spending the night there yesterday but it was not immediately clear if he would go to the southern capital Juba or to Chad by a route avoiding Darfur.

He said the government did not want him in Darfur because the situation there was as bad as it was in 2004 at the height of conflict between mainly non-Arab Darfuri rebels and government forces backed by militia auxiliaries.

Two million Darfuris have abandoned their homes and tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict. Egeland is in charge of UN humanitarian relief for the displaced, many of whom have been living in squalid camps for the past two years.

REUTERS VJ HS1656

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