Non-governmental health-care organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres has announced it will pull out of Tibet by the end of the month to focus its efforts on fighting Aids throughout China. Although the organisation's China mission director said the decision was not politically motivated, the Tibet Information Network on Monday described the move as 'controversial'. The organisation's 40 staff in Tibet have researched and treated Kashin-Beck, or big bone disease, and run a water-sanitation project since 1990. Organisation officials had decided its resources could be better used in the fight against Aids, said Laura Lau, head of the group's China mission. She said logistics was an issue in Tibet because of the distances from the base to project sites, but that this was common throughout China and was not the main reason for the withdrawal. Ms Lau said Aids had become a leading health problem, and the organisation's staff were qualified to help. The Tibet Information Network, a news and research service based in Britain, quoted a director of the health organisation in Belgium as saying Tibet was 'a hard environment to work in a Medecins Sans Frontieres-style way'. It also said the 31-year-old European body had jousted with Chinese officials over its activist stance on 'specific abuses of endangered populations' and that in 1997 the government made two of its members leave. But Ms Lau said the group had left its mark. It was one of the first non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Tibet and forged good relations with local officials. 'Being in a location so long, it's always controversial to close a project,' she said. Ms Lau added that other NGOs could hire the organisation's local staff and continue their work. Medecins Sans Frontieres might eventually return to Tibet, she said. The Tibet network said the withdrawal of the organisation would have an impact. 'The authorities in Tibet maintain a strict control over the activities of all foreign NGOs and aid projects in Tibetan areas,' it said yesterday. 'Tibet has one of the smallest concentrations of NGOs in the world, prompting concerns that the withdrawal of Medecins Sans Frontieres will have an impact on Tibetans who have benefited from their projects.' Director of the Tibet network, Thierry Dodin, said: 'It's very difficult. I wouldn't want to say it's a right or wrong decision. We don't know all the details that made them take that decision.'