Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has expelled three leading reformers, in the party's most serious split in years, as President Omar al-Bashir hinted at an imminent and wide-ranging government shakeup.

The party's shura council agreed to oust ex-presidential adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, former sports minister Hassan Osman Riziq, and Fadlallah Ahmed Abdallah, NCP deputy chairman Nafie Ali Nafie told reporters on Saturday.

The trio violated party rules by setting up a new political organisation, officials said, but Atabani has accused the NCP of spending too much time on "this minor internal issue at a time when the country is on the verge of collapse".

The Atabani group announced in late October that they would form a new political party, although they have not yet revealed details of their movement.

Nafie said the expulsions would take effect in ten days unless the trio returned to the ruling party.

An internal party investigation had previously recommended that the trio be ousted.

They were among more than 30 prominent NCP reformers who issued a memorandum to Bashir saying the government's response to September fuel price demonstrations betrayed its Islamic foundations.

Several others who signed the memorandum have been suspended from NCP activities for one year.

Imminent reforms

Speaking to the council President Bashir said: "We will soon make changes in the executive and legislative bodies at the federal and state levels,"

"Reforms have to come from within party institutions," he said.

Critics of Bashir's 24-year regime have become increasingly vocal since the government slashed fuel price subsidies, leading to the worst urban unrest of his rule. 

Security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 demonstrators, Amnesty International said, but the government has given a toll of less than half that.

The 400-member council meets every six months and is the ruling party's second-highest decision-making group, outside the general congress which is to be held next year.

Source: AFP