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London - Three Sudanese athletes training with the country's Olympic squad in Britain have applied for political asylum, the head of Sudan's Olympic Mission said on Tuesday.
Chef de Mission Elfatih Abelaal accused Sudanese communists and Darfur rebels of encouraging the athletes to apply while they were based at a training camp in northeast England.
A report in The Independent newspaper named the three athletes as Al-Nazeer Abdul Gadir, Sadam Hussein and Osman Yahya Omar, but a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy was unable to confirm the names to AFP.
Britain's interior ministry said it did not comment on individual cases.
Abelaal said in a statement that the three athletes were part of a group that was originally sent to join Sudan's pre-Olympic training camp in Middlesbrough, northeast England, on June 15.
After failing to qualify for the Games the three men applied for asylum, he said.
“Economic migrants pushed by refugee members of the Sudanese Communist Party, members of Darfuri armed groups and fractured groups... who live in northeast England encouraged the young athletes to apply for political asylum in the UK to embarrass the Sudanese government,” Abelaal said.
He said the groups told the athletes they would be offered a furnished flat, a weekly salary and a British passport, along with the chance to compete for the British athletics team if they applied.
It follows British media reports last week that an East African athlete in Britain for the London Olympics had walked into a police station on July 24 and asked for asylum.
Sudanese embassy spokesman Khalid Mustafa said their actions were disappointing.
“Of course we are disappointed,” Mustafa told AFP. “They are all young athletes in their 20s and they have jumped the gun.” - Sapa-AFP