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White House meets aid groups over Darfur

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From Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Obama administration officials huddled at the White House Thursday night with non-governmental organizations currently operating in Darfur, after the Sudanese president announced that 13 aid groups must leave the country.

"U.S. officials listened to the concerns of the NGOs, particularly regarding humanitarian needs that will go unmet in the wake of the expulsion of aid groups," acting State Department Spokesman Gordon Dugiid told reporters.

The move by the Sudanese government to throw out several aid groups comes a day after the International Criminal Court at The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for a five-year campaign of violence in Darfur.

The Sudanese government expelled 13 aid agencies that deliver more than half of the humanitarian assistance provided in Sudan. Roughly 70 other agencies continue to operate in Sudan, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Duguid said that at Thursday's meeting administration officials explained U.S. efforts to get the government of Sudan to reconsider its decision.

"The officials expressed deep concern that if carried out, the Sudanese threat could prompt a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions in Sudan," Duguid said.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday warned that the Sudanese move could cause "irrevocable damage to humanitarian operations" in the country.

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"The operations of these agencies are key to maintaining a lifeline to 4.7 million Sudanese people who receive aid in Darfur," a statement issued by the U.N. said. "These organizations provide humanitarian assistance to those who need it in a neutral and impartial manner."

Both the United Nations and the United States, along with the rest of the international community, are urging the Sudanese government to reconsider the decision.

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