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U.S. Embassy In Sudan Warns Americans to Leave

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  • U.S. Embassy In Sudan Warns Americans to Leave

    US Embassy in Sudan warns Americans to leave
    3/10/2009, 8:09 a.m. PDT
    The Associated Press

    KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Sudan said Tuesday that nonessential staff and family have been authorized to leave the country due to uncertain security conditions following the expulsion of aid groups from the Darfur region.

    The embassy also said it has received information on terrorist threats aimed at American and European interests in Sudan. The embassy gave no details, but it has posted similar messages in recent years.

    The United States and the U.N. have sharply criticized Sudan's decision to expel 13 of the largest aid groups in response to last week's International Criminal Court indictment against the Sudanese president on war crimes in the war-ravaged western region.

    President Omar al-Bashir has rejected the charges and has threatened to kick out more aid agencies, as well as diplomats and peacekeepers. Many fear the court's decision could unleash violence in Darfur against peacekeepers and civilians.

    "Recent protests have featured sharp anti-Western rhetoric. There is a continuing possibility that ongoing protests may encourage violent action against Europeans and Americans," a message posted on the embassy's Web site said.

    The embassy message said nonessential personnel and family members could leave Sudan if they want to, and warned Americans to avoid traveling to Africa's largest country.

    The Netherlands-based court accuses al-Bashir of leading a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million driven from their homes in the conflict since 2003, according to the U.N.

    A Sudanese newspaper with close ties to the government published a statement Tuesday from several hard-line Islamist groups and Arab militia in Darfur, sanctioning attacks against the court prosecutor and Darfur rebel leaders. The statement published in Akher Lahza included groups that have endorsed violence in the past but have never carried out attacks.

    A U.N.-African Union peacekeeper remained in serious condition Tuesday after half a dozen gunmen opened fire on a group of soldiers in Darfur, said U.N.-AU mission spokesman Noureddine Mezni. The ambush in western Darfur was the first reported violence against peacekeepers since the arrest warrant was issued March 4.

    Al-Bashir has accused the expelled aid groups of cooperating with the court, which he says is a new brand of colonialism.

    Sudan's State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun said Tuesday it was "premature" to talk about any gaps left by the expelled aid groups. His comments come a day after the U.N. said it would try to fill life-threatening gaps but its agencies and other aid organizations don't have the resources to fully replace them.

    "They (the U.N.) have to work according to the new reality dictated by the government decision," said Haroun, who also was indicted by the court on war crimes in Darfur in 2007. Sudan has refused to hand him over.

    In the Netherlands, the court's president rejected criticism of the timing of the arrest warrant.

    Canadian judge Philippe Kirsch said the court cannot take political issues into account as it carries out its mandate to prosecute the most senior perpetrators of war crimes.

    The African Union chief has called the arrest warrant "counterproductive" for peace efforts in Darfur.