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MSF urges Syria government to lift curbs on medical aid

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 7 Mar 2013 13:41 GMT
Author: Reuters
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DUBAI, March 7 (Reuters) - Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) urged the Syrian government on Thursday to allow medical supplies into rebel-held areas and stop what it called attacks on hospitals and doctors.

Speaking at a news conference in Dubai, MSF Director General Fillipe Ribeiro added that anyone providing political support to the combatants should not use movements of humanitarian aid to smuggle in weapons.

"We have made several calls to respect the health facilities and health structures. We also called on the government of Syria to help us direct medical assistance to everyone and so far we have not gotten any authorisation to do so," he said.

Medical staff and hospitals continued to be targeted by attacks by government forces, he added.

"A doctor helping Syrian citizens can now be arrested, tortured and killed," he said.

A million people have already fled almost two years of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, the U.N. relief agency said on Wednesday. Around 70,000 people have been killed.

Asked if there were arms being smuggled into Syria along with medical supplies, Ribeiro said the MSF had not witnessed such cases but added: "I wouldn't be surprised if this was happening."

He said he job was to make sure agencies giving medical aid were not used by other organisations with more political agendas.

Arab League ministers decided on Wednesday to let member nations arm Syrian rebels fighting Assad, and invited an opposition coalition to take the League seat formerly occupied by Damascus.

MSF, which three hospitals in northern Syria, said in January that international aid to Syria was not being distributed equally, with government-controlled areas receiving nearly all of it. (Reporting by Amena Bakr, Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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