"The al-Ayam daily newspaper has ... fostered a course of publication that serves the objectives of the enemies of the Sudan who are targeting the country's security and territorial safety," read the suspension order from the prosecutor for anti-state crimes delivered to the paper on Tuesday.

"The newspaper," it said, "continues to destroy the achievements that have patiently been reached while the current critical stage of the country requires mustering efforts of all organs, particularly the media."

The statement added the paper had ignored "numerous complaints" and "continued publishing false news reports aimed at disintegrating the internal front, fomenting discontent and inciting hatred against the state."

It alleged the paper had "gravely" harmed efforts to end the conflict between Khartoum and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army.

'Pretext'

But the paper's editor-in-chief, Mahjoub Muhammad Salih, told Aljazeera.net the authorities allegations were only a "pretext" to deal with the paper's editorial policy.

"The government does not like our line that calls for transparency, democracy and human rights"

Mahjoub Muhammad Salih,
editor-in-chief, al-Ayam

"The government does not like our line that calls for transparency, democracy and human rights," said Salih. He denied allegations of endangering the peace process.

"We are one of the oldest papers in Sudan and we have always been committed to peace. We have also been supporting peace negotiations since they started two years ago."

The government in Khartoum and the rebels in the south have been fighting a war since 1983. The peace talks taking place aim to end a long civil war that has claimed thousands of lives.

Appeal sought

Salih also said the suspension decision was taken by the prosecutor himself without taking the case to court. "We want to appeal to the prosecutor general to give us our right to defend ourselves."

Government and opposition have
agreed on continuous peace talks

This is the second time that the 50-year-old paper has been suspended. The first suspension lasted for one day. "This time, it depends on when the prosecutor finishes the investigation which might take between a week to two months."

The Sudan Media Centre said on Monday the National Security Organ wrote to the prosecutor demanding a lawsuit be filed against the paper for "adopting a line that adversely impairs the country's security, stability and religious and social cohesion."

"The prosecutor issued the suspension before even starting the investigation," said the editor-in-chief.