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Sudan's military leader vows to hand power to the people

Opposition group expected to announce rival civilian council as army drags feet on handover of authority
Sudanese protesters make victory signs in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum (Reuters)

Sudan’s under-pressure military ruler said on Sunday the army planned to hand power to the people as the main opposition group prepared to announce an alternative civilian council.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads a military council that has been put in place following the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, also said he will respond to the demands of protesters within a week.

"The council is committed to give power to [the] people," Burhan insisted, in his first interview on state television since taking power.

'The council is committed to give power to [the] people'

- General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

The army chief added that a delegation would soon travel to the United States to ask that Sudan be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, in the hope that it would bring economic relief to the cash-strapped country.

Talks between the military and the protesters have failed to agree on the complexion of a civilian leadership.

In response, the Sudanese Professionals Association opposition group has vowed to unveil its own civilian council on Sunday.

Thousands of Sudanese have flocked outside the army’s headquarters in the capital Khartoum in anticipation for the SPA’s announcement.

"We are waiting for the announcement today," Romaysaa Omar, one of the protesters at the sit-in area, told the AFP news agency.

"All Sudanese people are in favour of the council to be announced by the SPA."

Civilian handover

Protest leaders and the military held talks about a handover of power on Saturday.

"We clarified our main demand, which is the transfer of power to civilian authorities," Siddiq Yousef, a senior member of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protest movement, told state television after Saturday's talks.

"We agreed to continue negotiations to reach a solution that satisfies both the sides, so that the transfer of power will happen in a peaceful way."

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The military has resisted calls to relinquish power completely after it removed Bashir from the presidency on 11 April.

On Sunday, the Alliance for Freedom and Change said it will continue with the sit-in "until all our demands are met".

Demonstrations first erupted in December in response to rising prices and the grizzly economic situation the country was mired in.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of Bashir’s main backers in recent years, pledged on Sunday to inject $500m into Sudan’s central bank and give $2.5bn to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The official news agency did not specify whether the money was a gift or loan.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese pound surged on the black market on Sunday, trading at 45 to the dollar against 72 last week.