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Annan to Speak to Sudanese Leader on Trip Ban to Darfur
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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is seeking to speak to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir after Khartoum reportedly banned a visit by the top UN relief official to the troubled Darfur region.

"The secretary-general regrets that the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, was not permitted by the government of Sudan to visit Darfur," said a statement issued by a UN spokesman on Tuesday.

"The pressing and urgent humanitarian requirements of Darfur are a priority for the United Nations and coordination efforts to sustain this large program were at the center of Egeland's visit."

"The secretary-general will be seeking to speak to President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir on this matter," the statement added.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland's plane was refused permission to land on Sunday at the start of what was to have been a five-day visit to Africa's largest country.

The world body has been heavily involved in trying both to ease the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and to promote the rehabilitation of the recently pacified southern Sudan. The Darfur conflict, which pits the government, militias and rebels, has killed many people and uprooted millions.

Egeland eventually flew from Uganda to Juba, capital of southern Sudan, by commercial plane but, after spending a day in the town of Rumbek, he left the country when the government's refusal to let him visit Darfur aborted the trip.

(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2006 )

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