The test of strength between Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir and his former ally turned rival, veteran Islamist Hassan al-Turabi, took a new turn Tuesday when Turabi's faction announced it had expelled Beshir from country's ruling party.
The executive Leadership Council of Sudan's National Congress (NC) party, headed by Turabi said it had dismissed Beshir, who is party chairman, along with six of his senior aides.
A strong-worded statement attributed to the leadership authority of the NC said the decisions were taken by the majority of votes at a meeting held Monday at Turabi's house.
The statement said Beshir's deputies Ali Othman Taha and George Arob, his assistants Ibrahim Ahmad Omar and Nafe' Ali Nafe' as well as the minister of information Ghazi Salah and Majzoub al-Khalifa, the governor of Khartoum, were also sacked.
The statement said the decisions were based "on the NC constitution stipulating that whoever opposes the NC goals and principles shall be sacked."
Ali al-Haj, deputy secretary general, whose activities were suspended by Beshir told KUNA that Beshir’s decisions were void as he exploited his powers as a head of state in settling the dispute inside the ruling party.
Al-Haj did not rule out armed clashes with the government if the authorities use violence against Turabi's supporters.
But since Beshir had already suspended around half of the leadership from their party posts on Saturday -- including Turabi himself as NC secretary general -- it was unclear what effect the decision would have.
"Others affected by Beshir's decision were Turabi's two deputies and the party's 26 provincial secretaries.
The statement did not specify when and where the Council had met to adopt its resolutions dismissing the president from the party nor did it say how many of the Council's 60 members took part in the meeting.
Beshir himself is one of its members.
Turabi's supporters said in a press conference outside his home that Beshir and his aides had been dismissed for violating the party rules by suspending Turabi's general secretariat.
But it has never been clear whether Beshir as chairman or Turabi as secretary general was ultimately in charge of the party.
In January, six weeks after Beshir ousted his former ally-turned-rival as speaker of parliament, Turabi had to accept a cohabitation arrangement within the NC, weighted heavily in favor of Beshir.
According to the agreement, Beshir took charge of party executive affairs, while Turabi was responsible for ideological, organizational and mass activities.
But Turabi, who once helped Beshir seize power in a 1989 coup, also remained leader of the party's executive Leadership Council.
The Beshir-Turabi struggle which has been ongoing since late 1998 seems for the moment to be restricted to within party ranks and Turabi's "dismissal" of Beshir does not appear to threaten the real power base of the president who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Sudan's top military brass pledged their "full support" for Beshir on Monday after he froze Turabi out of the party.
Khartoum has been calm since Beshir's suspension of Turabi, and a state of emergency has been in force since December when the president dissolved parliament – (Agencies)
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