Source: AFP 06/05/2010
SANAA — Yemen on Wednesday slapped a last-minute ban on a meeting of Arab parliamentarians to discuss the crisis in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, the head of one group due to attend said.
"We were surprised a few hours before the conference began when security men blocked participants access to the hall," Yemen's Social Democratic Forum secretary general Nabil Abdulhafiz said.
He cited the security men as saying they had "received instructions to do so."
The government had earlier given the participants "all the facilities including the granting of visas without any restrictions, so we found the decision to ban the conference surprising," Abdulhafiz added.
"I think that the Sudanese government has put pressure on the Yemeni authorities to prevent the conference from taking place," he charged.
Abdulhafiz said that after contacting officials, "the justification we heard from a high Yemeni official is that the government avoids and does not allow a conference in Sanaa which may direct abuse to a fellow Arab country."
Eight parliamentarians from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan described the decision as "contrary to the laws and regulations of the Republic of Yemen," in a statement received by AFP.
According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since rebels in Darfur rose up against the Khartoum government which was aided by local Arab militias, in February 2003. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000