President Omar al-Beshir on Saturday suspended political rival Hassan al-Turabi as a leader of Sudan's ruling National Congress as police surrounded the party's headquarters in Khartoum.
Five months after declaring a state of emergency and ousting Turabi as parliamentary speaker, the president announced on state radio and television he was suspending Turabi from his party post -- a move seen as bolstering Beshir's position as Sudan's full leader.
In the angry speech broadcast on national television, the president said the Islamist leader had made a habit of defying him, a situation he referred to as an escalating crisis.
"A president does not need the consent of another leader to carry out his activities. We have never witnessed such a situation in any country around the world," the president said.
He said he also was barring Turabi's deputies from national and state-level political activities.
TURABI DEFFIES DECISION
Turabi, the Islamist ideologue who helped Beshir seize power in a bloodless coup in 1989, remained defiant when speaking to Abu Dhabi television from Port Sudan on the Red Sea, accusing Beshir of abusing his military power.
"I will not be leaving Sudan," Turabi said.
"The party secretaries in the provinces will continue with their legitimate action, and will be meeting to take decisions about these recent decisions of General Beshir," he continued.
But his aides said that the authorities had prevented Turabi from holding meetings in Port Sudan and that the offices of the party's secretaries in the country's 26 provinces have been closed down.
In a heated speech on state television, Beshir, wearing a traditional white turban rather than a military uniform, said "the secretary general has always been in that habit of defying me."
Beshir, who is party chairman, said he issued directives to "freeze" the activities of the party's secretariat general "including the activities of the secretary general and his deputies."
On Thursday, Beshir had accused Turabi, long considered the eminence grilse behind his government, of plotting to overthrow the government and threatened to take decisive action to end his "hostile activities."
He said Saturday the steps had been taken "due to the obstacles the general secretariat of the National Congress used to place in the way of activities of the state and the party."
Beshir had accused Turabi of "calling up officers and the Mujaheddin during the night," to incite them to rise up against the regime.
In his speech Saturday he said Turabi's latest act of defiance had been to oppose holding the meeting Thursday of leaders of the ruling Islamist party during which he made his accusations against his former ally-turned-rival.
Beshir expressed outrage that Turabi had sent him a letter "ordering" him, in his capacity as secretary general of the party, not to hold the meeting.
The president had called for the meeting the day before to ensure party unity ahead of presidential elections in October.
He said he had made every effort to resolve the conflict with Turabi but was "left with just two options: either to stand up to the situation or step down."
In another directive, he ordered "the continuation of the grand mobilization for rebuilding the National Congress" and said further resolutions would be issued shortly.
He did not elaborate.
TURABI EXPECTS TO BE ARRESTED
Turabi told AFP on Friday that he expected to be arrested at any time after Beshir accused him of plotting to topple the government.
However, two Khartoum newspapers, citing unidentified legal and security sources, reported Saturday that there were no plans to arrest Turabi or take legal action against him.
After Turabi had sponsored legislation aimed at curbing presidential powers, Beshir pushed him out of the inner circles of power on December 12.
The president dissolved the country's parliament, effectively ousting Turabi as speaker, declared a nationwide state of emergency, and suspended certain articles of the constitution
In January, Turabi had to accept a cohabitation arrangement within the NC, weighted heavily in favor of Beshir.
The power struggle between the two factions has been going on for more than 18 months, but was being played out discreetly inside the party.
Since December, the Sudanese president has been pressing for reconciliation with opposition parties and sought to raise hopes for an end to a 17-year civil war with rebels in the south.
BESHIR REASSURES LIBYA OVER SITUATION
Beshir reassured Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi over the situation in his country, where he has just ousted rival Hassan al-Turabi, Libyan state television reported Saturday.
During a telephone conversation Friday evening, Beshir "reassured the Libyan leader about the situation in Sudan," adding that "the situation is developing in the interests of legality and national unity," the television said without elaborating.
Libya heads a joint initiative with Egypt aimed at ending Sudan's 17-year-old civil war – (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )