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Sudan president to meet British lawmakers over teddy bear case

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  • NEW: Meeting set for Monday between Sudan president and British lawmakers
  • Two UK lawmakers hope to win pardon for jailed teacher
  • Gillian Gibbons jailed for letting students name teddy bear Mohammed
  • Gibbons found guilty of insulting religion, sentenced to 15 days in jail
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KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir on Monday morning will meet with two British lawmakers to discuss a possible pardon for a British teacher convicted of insulting religion, presidential palace sources told Time magazine's Sam Dealey on Sunday.

The announcement came shortly after the two British lawmakers -- in Khartoum since Saturday to secure the release of Gillian Gibbons -- announced they were delaying their planned departure from the capital, a move widely interpreted as a sign of progress.

Nazir Ahmed and Sayeeda Warsi, Muslim members of the House of Lords, have been working to persuade the Sudanese government that releasing Gibbons would create international goodwill toward their country.

Their efforts have been complicated by pressure from hard-liners for Gibbons to serve out the last week of a 15-day sentence for having allowed her students to name a teddy bear "Mohammed." Video Watch as lawmakers try to free teacher »

Some protesters have called for her execution.

Moderates, who are in the majority in Sudan's government, initially appeared ready Sunday to hand Gibbons over to the British Embassy, but their misgivings grew as hard-liners among the minority increased pressure on them, he said.

Riot police were deployed Sunday around the capital, but there were no signs of major protests, Dealey said.

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According to the CIA World Factbook, Sudan is 70 percent Sunni Muslim, although that percentage is lower in Khartoum.

Gibbons, 54, was sentenced Thursday. The court gave her credit for time served, so as of Sunday she had eight days left.

She has apologized to a faculty member offended by the toy's name, Dealey told CNN.

The lawmakers said Gibbons was in "high spirits," and wants to stay in Sudan and continue teaching, Dealey said.

However, Gibbons is to be deported as soon as she is released, British consular officials told CNN.

The members of Parliament have met privately with Gibbons, who told them she was being treated well, they said. Warsi told Dealey she was doing "remarkably."

Gibbons was cleared of charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, her lawyer, Ali Ajeb, said.

The case has sparked outrage both in Sudan and in Britain.

On Friday, hundreds of protesters, some waving ceremonial swords as they stood on trucks equipped with loudspeakers, gathered outside the presidential palace to denounce Gibbons.

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British newspapers have condemned Gibbons' conviction, with the Daily Telegraph calling for the recall of the British ambassador from Khartoum and sanctions against the heads of the Sudanese government.

In an editorial, the tabloid newspaper, The Sun, said Gibbons' jailing was a "grotesque insult to Islam" and called Gibbons "an innocent abroad." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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