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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK

World: Africa

UN returns to rebel-held Sudan

Both Khartoum and the rebels have complied with the UN visit

The United Nations has launched its first humanitarian mission to the rebel-held Nuba mountains in Sudan since the early 1980s.

The region is one of the few rebel-held areas in the north of the country and correspondents say it has suffered particularly badly in the country's long-running civil war.

For much of the past decade the government has refused access to aid organisations while they have accused it of using hunger as a lethal weapon against the Nuba people.

They say 100,000 people are facing dire food shortages as a result of drought and a government blockade.

The UN has thanked both the Sudanese Government and the SPLA rebels for their co-operation in allowing the mission to go ahead.


The BBC's UN Correspondent, Mark Devenport, says the team includes representatives from the United Nations Children's Fund - Unicef, the World Food Programme, and the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

[ image: Aid agencies accuse the government of using famine as a lethal weapon]
Aid agencies accuse the government of using famine as a lethal weapon
Correspondents say the team aims to assess the needs of vulnerable civilians in an area which has suffered especially badly as a result of the long-running war between the Islamic government and the rebels of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.

Although the people of the Nuba mountains have sided with the rebels, their area is surrounded by government-held territory and isolated from the main rebel strongholds in the south of the country.

Relief workers have accused Khartoum of using hunger as a lethal weapon against the Nuba people and there have been reports of widespread human rights abuses by forces loyal to the government.

In March, foreign doctors working in the region reported especially intense government assaults from the air and on the ground, and described it as a scandal that the UN was not operating in the area.

Support requested

The UN assessment team is expected to visit five villages in the south Kordofan region, before returning to the Sudanese capital on Thursday.

The UN said it hoped its agencies would be able to count on continuing support from both sides in their efforts to provide help for all those in need.

Sudan has experienced a long-running conflict between the Arab Muslims in the north, and the black Africans of the south, who practise mainly Christian or animist beliefs.

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