Sudanese Ambassador to Ireland Omer Siddigi has confirmed that negotiations are underway to free Irish aid worker Sharon Commins and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kawuki.

Ms Commins and Ms Kawuki were kidnapped in Darfur last week.

Mr Siddigi said both women had contacted officials in Dublin and in north Darfur.

He said the Sudanese government hoped they would be released in the coming days without a ransom being paid.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power said sensitive work is ongoing with the Sudanese authorities and he was hopeful there would be a successful conclusion.

'We are working closely with the Sudanese Government,' Mr Power added.

GOAL Chief Executive John O'Shea said he was making no comment on the reported negotiations.

Sudan's minister for humanitarian affairs, Abdel Baqi al-Jailani, told Reuters news agency this morning that what he described as 'bandits' had demanded a ransom and negotiations are under way.

Mr al-Jailani also said that Sharon Commins had phoned officials both in Dublin and north Darfur confirming they were in good health.

The Sudanese minister is quoted as saying: 'They want money and negotiations are ongoing. We now know the names of the people and their tribes.

'This is nothing to do with politics. We hope we will have some good news in a few days' time.'

Mr Siddigi backed up Mr al-Jailani claims.