Belgium asks Sudan to authorise aircraft into Darfur

Brussels- Belgium (PANA) -- Belgium's new development co-operation minister Armand De Decker has said Sudanese authorities must allow the C-130 plane provided by his government to NGOs before it starts operations in the troubled Darfur region.
In an exclusive interview published in the weekend edition of 'Le Soir' newspaper, the minister said Belgium had dispatched the aircraft to Khartoum three weeks ago, in response to an appeal launched by UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
The plane has been grounded ever since.
The Sudanese government has not appreciated the criticism that it has not facilitated the flow of international aid to the affected population in the strife-stricken Darfur region.
De Decker arrived in Khartoum last Saturday in a bid to convince the Sudanese ministers of foreign and home affairs to authorise the plane's take-off.
"The rainy season has started and the NGOs are increasingly in need of a plane to convey the aid to the population from Khartoum.
" Meanwhile, Armand De Decker, who was appointed on 20 July, expressed his intention to maintain the activities initiated by former Foreign Minister Louis Michel, in DR Congo and in the Great Lakes region.
"I have the advantage of having met with numerous Congolese leaders in my capacity as the speaker of the Senate," said De Decker, who occupied that post before being appointed minister.
"Europe has undergone a tremendous growth.
It cannot let Africa on the pavement and Belgium has a key role to play as a catalyst," the minister concluded.
On its part, the Belgian section of the "Medecins sans Frontieres" warned in a news release that with the advent of the rainy season, there was a high risk epidemics of cholera, diarrhoea and malaria in Darfur region where the people have no access to minimum health care.
The NGO's Belgian chapter sent its teams into the strife-torn region in September 2003, while another group is operating along the Chad-Sudan border, where more than 300,000 Darfur residents have taken refuge after fleeing raids by the Arab Janjaweed militias.

02 august 2004 16:33:00

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