Protests continue in Sudan as Bashir meets Qatari ruler
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman to demonstrate against the rule of Omar al-Bashir, just as the embattled Sudanese president landed in Qatar for a two-day visit.
Sudanese police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters on Tuesday as demonstrators staged night-and-daytime rallies against the government.
The demonstrations were the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against Bashir's three-decade rule.
They also coincided with Bashir's first trip abroad since the unprecedented, anti-Bashir rallies first broke out on 19 December after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
The ruler of Qatar offered support for Sudan's "unity and stability" on Wednesday at a meeting with President Omar al-Bashir on his first foreign visit in more than a month of protests against him, a statement said.
"President Bashir briefed the Emir on the latest updates regarding the situation and challenges facing the country," said a statement from the court of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
"The Emir affirmed Qatar's firm stance on Sudan's unity and stability, and they discussed the latest developments in the Darfur peace process."
The tiny but wealthy Gulf state vies with regional rivals for influence in Sudan, strategic in part for its access to the Red Sea, and last year agreed a $4 billion deal to jointly develop Suakin port.
But no new financial assistance was announced on Wednesday.
Qatar is one of Sudan's long-term allies in the region, with the Qatari government mediating between Khartoum and rebel groups involved in the Darfur conflict.
Since the anti-government protests broke out last month in Sudan, many states across the Middle East and North African have stood by Bashir despite the widespread calls for his removal.
Qatar was among the first countries to express support after protests broke out on 19 December, with Sheikh Tamim calling Bashir to offer "all that was necessary", according to Sudan.
Officials say 26 people have died so far in the protests, while rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have put the death toll at more than 40.
The groups also accuse the Sudanese government of launching a crackdown on activists in order to stem the protests, arresting journalists, political opponents and scores of others.
Bashir has pointed the finger at "conspirators" for inciting the protests, without specifying who they were, while urging people in Sudan to seek political change through the ballot box, not on the streets.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Qatari state-funded broadcaster Al Jazeera criticised Sudan's "arbitrary" decision to withdraw accreditation for three of its journalists covering the anti-government protests in the country.
"Al Jazeera Media Network denounces this arbitrary decision which lacks any credible justification and contradicts basic norms of press freedom," said the network in a statement.
"The network reaffirms its journalists' commitment to Al Jazeera's editorial standards in the coverage of the latest developments in Sudan."