Sudan hints at reprieve for UK envoy

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KHARTOUM - Sudan, locked in an acrimonious dispute with its former colonial power, has accused the British ambassador to Khartoum of working against its efforts to mend fences with the West. But a 'highly placed political source' hinted in a report in the government newspaper Al-Ingaz Al-Watani that an expulsion order could be reversed if Britain showed understanding of the reasons behind the order.

The unnamed official told the newspaper that the ambassador, Peter Streams, was responsible for the failure of efforts by Sudan's Islamic government to improve ties with the West. But the report yesterday contained no specific examples of how Mr Streams allegedly undermined his host state.

On Thursday Sudan said that it was giving Mr Streams two weeks to leave. Britain has given Sudan until tomorrow to reverse the decision or face retaliation.

The Sudanese official said that the expulsion had nothing to do with the ambassador's contacts with Sudanese opposition leaders or controversy over a visit to southern Sudan by George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At the weekend, Sudan's military ruler, Omar Hassan el Beshir, said the aim of expelling Mr Streams was to show Britain that Sudan was no longer part of the British empire. 'We wanted it as a lesson for them (the British) . . . that we are independent and will not permit anyone to harm our independence.'