Sudan army rulers, protesters resume key talks on civil rule

Khartoum (AFP) –


Sudan's army rulers and protest leaders resumed crucial talks Monday over handing power to a civilian administration after a deadlock in negotiations, as angry demonstrators blocked a major avenue along the Nile river.

The much-awaited discussions came with crowds of protesters still camped round-the-clock outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum, vowing to force the ruling military council to cede power -- just as they drove longtime leader Omar al-Bashir from office on April 11.

Protest leaders Omar al-Digeir and Satea al-Haj were among those attending the talks on Monday on behalf of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, a spokeswoman for the umbrella group, Mashar Darraj, told AFP.

The meeting was being held behind closed doors at a convention centre in central Khartoum.

Prior to the meeting dozens of protesters blocked Nile Street, a major avenue in the city, for the second consecutive day, an AFP correspondent reported.

Protesters also blocked a road leading to the capital's northern district of Bahari, the correspondent reported.

Burnt tyres were strewn across the road as soldiers and members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Force deployed.

On Sunday protesters blocked Nile Street after police stopped them from going from that road to the sit-in outside the army complex that has been held since April 6.

The military council slammed the blocking of the avenue.

"It is totally unacceptable what is happening on the Nile street as it creates chaos and makes life difficult for citizens," the council said in a statement late on Sunday.

- 'Optimistic atmosphere' -

The council also dismissed unconfirmed reports that security forces were trying to disperse the sit-in outside the military headquarters.

The protest alliance said Saturday the generals had invited the movement for a new round of talks.

The army generals and protesters are at loggerheads over who will sit on a new ruling body that would replace the existing military council.

The generals have proposed that the new council be military led, while the protest leaders want a majority civilian body.

Late last month, the alliance -- which brings together protest organisers, opposition parties and rebel groups -- handed the generals its proposals for a civilian-led transitional government.

But the generals have pointed to what they call "many reservations" over the alliance's roadmap.

They have singled out its silence on the constitutional position of Islamic sharia law, which was the guiding principle of all legislation under Bashir's rule but is anathema to secular groups like the Sudanese Communist Party and some rebel factions in the alliance.

The alliance has said it wants to "sort out all these points in 72 hours" once the talks resume.

Late on Sunday the spokesman for the ruling military council, Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi, said the talks are being held in an "optimistic atmosphere".

He said the negotiations aimed "to reach an agreement over the arrangements of the transitional period".

Thousands of protesters first reached the army complex on April 6 seeking the army's help in ousting Bashir.

Days later the army ousted the veteran leader, but a 10-member military council has since taken power, and demonstrators are now continuing their sit-in against the generals.

Crowds have dwindled during the day due to the scorching heat, but protesters still gather in their thousands after breaking the fast in the evening for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.