KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudan (search) has indefinitely postponed the expulsion of the local directors of two British humanitarian organizations, the British Embassy said Tuesday.
Sudan's government had said Monday that it was giving the directors of Oxfam (search) and Save the Children UK 48 hours to leave the country, accusing them of sending "signals of support" to rebels in Darfur (search) and breaking the law.
A spokesman for the British Embassy, Mark Bryson-Richardson, said Tuesday of the expulsion: "It is our understanding that it has been postponed."
The report could not immediately be confirmed with the government. Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail declined to comment on the matter, saying it was being handled by the minister of humanitarian affairs — who could not be reached.
The chief U.N. envoy for Sudan, Jan Pronk, pressed the government Monday to reverse the expulsions. His spokeswoman, Radhia Achouri, said the two British NGOs "have played a major role in alleviating the suffering of people in Darfur and across Sudan."
The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs said Monday that the expulsions were ordered in response to the NGOs' statements on this month's upsurge in violence in Darfur, the western region of Sudan where a rebellion has provoked a counterinsurgency campaign that has killed thousands of people and displaced about 1.8 million inhabitants.
"The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs views the statements issued by those two organizations as sending signals of support to the outlaws and rebels for continuation of the war," the ministry said in a press release.
The ministry also accused the NGOs of violating Sudanese law on nonintervention in the country's political, ethnic or sectarian issues.
The Sudanese government has a history of tension with aid groups, which have previously accused Khartoum of restricting access to the displaced people in Darfur.
Although the rebellion began in February 2003, the government did not ease restrictions on aid groups until May 2004, as the world condemned the suffering of the displaced. Sudan argued it had denied access for security reasons.