Negotiators to finalise Sudan warzone aid plan amid global concern

Food shortages have sparked global concern

KHARTOUM - Negotiators are finalising a joint UN, Arab League and African Union plan for aid to Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan, where food shortages have sparked global concern, sources said on Thursday.
Hollywood actor George Clooney highlighted the issue last week when he and several Congress members were arrested outside Khartoum's Washington embassy demanding an end to a Sudanese offensive they fear will cause thousands to starve.
Under the joint plan, the United Nations, Arab League and AU would assess the humanitarian situation throughout the conflict area in South Kordofan and nearby Blue Nile state, and then deliver assistance to the needy.
"We are really approaching the finalising of the outcome of our contacts with the two sides," a source close to the talks said, expressing hope that "maybe next week we will get the final answer."
The source said both the Sudanese government and the rebels have "showed a positive attitude" and given in-principal approval.
A humanitarian source separately said the deal, which would allow aid access to areas controlled by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), could be finalised in coming days.
"They have made a lot of progress in finalising the arrangements," said the source.
Sudan has cited security concerns in severely controlling access for foreign relief agencies but UN officials have repeatedly said they need full access -- including to rebel-held areas -- to properly assess the needs of the people.
More than 360,000 people have been internally displaced or severely affected by the fighting, according to the UN.
Most government aid has gone to government-held zones, the United Nations has said, adding Khartoum received the tripartite proposal in early February.
Mountainous South Kordofan was on track for "a major humanitarian crisis" because of persistent bombings by government forces that have impeded agriculture, Princeton Lyman, the US special envoy on Sudan, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where Clooney also testified after a clandestine trip to the warzone.
US officials warned that about 250,000 people could soon go hungry in the region.
Ethnic minority insurgents from the SPLM-N fought alongside the former rebels now ruling South Sudan, which became independent in July last year after an overwhelming vote for secession following Africa's longest war.