[dehai-news] Monitor.co.ug: U.S. embassy evacuates staff in Khartoum

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 09:00:18 EST

U.S. embassy evacuates staff in Khartoum

By Andrew Heavens

March 10, 2009

 KHARTOUM- The U.S. embassy in Khartoum has authorised the voluntary
evacuation of non-essential staff after the International Criminal Court
issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's president over Darfur, an embassy
official said on Tuesday.

"This is one step down from an ordered evacuation of non-essential staff,"
the official told Reuters, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of
the issue. The official said the decision was partly a diplomatic move in
reaction to Sudan's expulsion and harassment of aid groups.

The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar
Hassan al-Bashir this month, accusing him of war crimes during nearly six
years of fighting in Darfur in Sudan's turbulent west.

All Western embassies tightened security in the run-up to the court's
decision, but the U.S. embassy's move is the first concrete diplomatic step
reported since the court's decision.

A spokesman for the British embassy, Piers Craven, said his government was
"keeping the situation under constant review" and had contingency plans in
place but had not taken a similar step.

Some analysts have said the warrant for Bashir could spark more violence in
Darfur, where peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of a conflict
involving rebels, government militias, bandits and rival tribes.

Darfur gunmen ambushed United Nations and African Union peacekeepers on
Monday, wounding four of them in the first serious violence since the
warrant for Sudan's president was issued. The African nation shut down 13
foreign and three local non-governmental organisations after the ICC
decision, saying they helped the court in the Hague.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that U.N. humanitarian
operations in Darfur, where some 4.7 million people rely on aid, would face
"irrevocable damage" if the decision to shut down the aid groups was not

Pro-government militias are accused of widespread atrocities in the restive
region, where international experts say at least 200,000 people have been
killed and some 2.7 million driven from their homes.


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