The European Union is withdrawing its election observers from Sudan's Darfur region, just four days before Sudan begins national elections.
EU mission chief Veronique de Keyser told reporters of the move Wednesday, after flying into the North Darfur capital of El-Fasher to meet the team of six monitors. De Keyser said earlier that she was concerned about the observers' safety, and that they would not have sufficient access to credibly evaluate the polls.
President Omar al-Bashir has threatened to expel international observers who push for a delay in the elections. He also threatened to cut the tongues out of any observer who "insults" Sudan.
Sudan is due to begin three days of presidential, parliamentary and regional elections on Sunday. However, a number of opposition parties have declared a boycott of the presidential vote.
Late Tuesday, the main political party in Sudan's southern region said it also will boycott the legislative and local polls in the north of the country.
The parties accuse the ruling National Congress Party of preparing to rig the results.
The government has rejected opposition calls for a delay, insisting that the first multi-party elections in Sudan since 1986 will take place on schedule.
These elections are a key part of the 2005 peace accord that ended a 21-year civil war between Sudan's northern and southern regions. This is a prelude to a referendum scheduled to be held in January on whether the semi-autonomous south will become completely independent.
The war in Darfur, a separate conflict, has raged since 2003. The United Nations says the fighting and related violence has killed up to 300,000 people and displaced some 2.7 million others. Sudan puts the death toll much lower, at 10,000.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.