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Swiss aid group withdraws from northern Mali

The Swiss charity Helvetas says it is moving its aid workers from the embattled region of northern Mali to the south of the country.

Pierre-Yves Suter, who is stationed in the capital Bamako, said a military offensive by Tuareg rebels in the north was reason for serious concern.

“It might lead to the country being split in two,” he told the Swiss News Agency.

However, he said Helvetas was not planning to pull out of the country as only two of its 20 or so aid projects were situated in the northern region.

Suter believed the general political situation was likely to calm down following last month’s military coup to stop the rebels’ drive for independence.

Meanwhile, the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross says it hopes to continue a dialogue with the warring parties as safe access to the victims is crucial for the organisation.

Mali has been a priority country for Switzerland’s official aid efforts for more than 30 years.

The foreign ministry said Switzerland had suspended any direct aid to the state authorities in Mali for the time being.

But in line with its current aid policy on Mali, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is focusing on helping the population affected by the crisis, according to a foreign ministry spokeswoman.

The SDC has earmarked SFr21.1 million ($23.4 million) in aid to the West African country for 2012.

swissinfo.ch


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