Ethiopia has stated U.N. aid workers can resume drought relief operations in the war-torn north but that more than 50 other Western workers remain barred from the region, an official said Tuesday.

The policy reversal, which affects only four of 60 Western relief workers, came after a U.N. envoy met during the weekend with President Mengistu Haile Mariam and the nation's highest relief official, Berhanu Jembere.Undersecretary Martti Ahtisaari of Finland was sent to Ethiopia to discuss the April 6 expulsions, which have crippled a massive emergency program to feed 3.2 million starving people in the northern provinces of Eritrea and Tigre.

Tafari Wossen, information officer of the government Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, said U.N. officials "are definitely strengthening their operation there."

In a telephone interview, Wossen quoted Berhanu as saying the United Nations was never really included in the pullout of aid workers and that "it must have been a misunderstanding."

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Berhanu insisted his government would not allow even a skeleton staff of U.N. or other Westerners to monitor food distribution in the north.