The United States Thursday began airlifting food and medical supplies to thousands of sick and starving people in famine-ravaged southern Sudan after the Sudanese government agreed to let the aid go thruough, the State Department said.

The airlift got underway after a meeting in Khartoum of Sudanese Prime Minister Sadek el-Mahdi, U.S. Ambassador G. Norman Anderson and Walter Bollinger, an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development.The agreement breaks a deadlock between the Sudanese government and foreign aid donors. State Department spokesman Charles Redman said food and medical supplies are being airlifted to prepositioned storage points.

The relief plan was drawn up by a team from the State Department's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Sudanese government and other donors, including private groups, according to a cable from the U.S. ambassador in Khartoum.

The Sudanese government, which has fought an intermittent war with Christians and Animists in the south who resisted the imposition of Islamic law, had resisted delivery of food supplies into rebel areas.

Lately, however, the rebel Sudaense People's Liberation Army has fired on relief planes and convoys, making assistance difficult. The rebels are backed by the Marxist government in Ethiopia.