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Sudan protest group urges demonstrators to remain at Khartoum sit-in

Sudanese Professionals Association called on more civilians to act as bulwark against military
Protesters have demonstrated at a sit-in at the defence ministry in Khartoum since 6 April (Reuters - File pic)

Sudan's main protest group called for civil disobedience and a general strike as meetings with the country's military rulers failed to provide any breakthrough on the formation of a joint civilian-military transitional council.

As tensions between the two sides rose, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said in a statement late on Monday that the military had tried to break up a sit-in in the capital Khartoum where protesters are demanding a handover to civilian rule.

It called on more civilians to join the sit-in and for protesters to erect barriers to protect themselves.

A witness told Reuters that security forces dressed in civilian clothes had tried to remove barricades leading to the sit-in, before withdrawing.

Plans for the new transition process come as Sudan continues to grapple with rebuilding after the Transitional Military Council (TMC) ousted President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month.

Protesters have kept up pressure on the TMC through mass rallies and the sit-in outside the defence ministry compound, which began on 6 April.

The two sides had been due to talk on Monday about the make-up of the proposed body, but the TMC focused the discussions instead on the future council's functions and powers, two sources familiar with the discussions said.

After Bashir's ouster, the TMC announced it would remain in place for two years ahead of elections.

Opposition groups and protesters who have kept up a sit-in outside the defence ministry want a four-year transition overseen by a civilian-led council with military representation.

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The joint council would be the sovereign body overseeing a government of technocrats and a legislative council.

TMC spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi described Monday's meeting as positive and said the two sides had agreed to unblock the Blue Nile Bridge and railways occupied by protesters. But the SPA denied agreeing to open any bridges or railways.

"This is counter to reality and negates any agreement with the military council, and we affirm that we are maintaining our sit-in, and everything that the spokesman said is incorrect," the group said in a statement.

The SPA said it would conduct a general political strike and civil disobedience through the holy month of Ramadan, which starts in early May, and the Eid holiday that follows.

The two sides are due to present their visions for the transitional bodies within 24 hours, the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces said, cited by Reuters.

A further meeting was planned to discuss the joint council's composition, according to sources.