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10.000 Sudanese refugees back home from Central Africa

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Oct 12, 2006 (BANGUI) — The repatriation of about 10,000 Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic can start again at the end of October after a six-month delay, the UN refugee agency announced Thursday.

"The Central African government has finally approved the opening of air corridors to enable the repatriations," Bruno Geddo, the Bangui representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told AFP.

"We’ll do all we can to resume these operations towards the end of October," Geddo said, adding that the Bangui government had authorised a Dutch aviation company to provide transport.

The repatriation of refugees from southern Sudan after the end of a long civil war there began in February, but was suddenly halted in April because of problems caused by violence in Chad, which borders both countries.

Following a Chadian rebel offensive on the capital N’Djamena, the Bangui authorities closed the border with Sudan on April 14 and denounced the Chadian rebels for crossing the territory of the Central African Republic.

Two weeks later, the government banned UNHCR planes from using airspace over the northeast of the country in the border area. This order came after a plane carrying "armed men" made a clandestine landing at Tiringoulou, 800 kilometres (500 miles) northeast of Bangui.

The government said the aircraft in question bore the registration markings of the plane the UNHCR was then using to repatriate the refugees.

(AFP/ST)

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