KHARTOUM, Sudan — The government today vetoed a plan to fly relief goods to starving people in southern Sudan because of what it said is a continuing threat of attack by rebels in the area.
Kamil Shawki, high commissioner for refugees, said the Cabinet rejected Wau and Yirol as landing sites for relief goods. Wau is a government-controlled city where scores of thousands of civil war refugees are said to be near starvation, and Yirol is held by the rebels.
Shawki said the airlift, called Operation Rainbow, "cannot go to Yirol because of military operations in the area and cannot go to Wau because the airport is still closed."
"It is impossible for any respectable government to say, 'I am going to allow you to fly to an area where the government is carrying out military actions, or where the airport is closed,' " he said.
Threat of Starvation
The monthlong international airlift has been delayed by threats from the Sudan People's Liberation Army to shoot down any plane flying over rebel territory without its permission. It shot down a Sudan Airways flight on Aug. 16, killing 60 people.
Relief agencies say recent fighting in the three-year rebellion has threatened almost half the south's 7 million people with starvation, in an area also experiencing prolonged drought.
Operation Rainbow organizers had received a promise of safe passage from the rebels if they sent a relief plane first to Yirol and then Wau.
Shawki suggested food instead be sent in trucks to Wau or flown to Malakal or Juba, the south's largest city.