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Sudan women protest amid calls for mass demo to pressure generals

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Khartoum (AFP)

Hundreds of women marched towards Sudan's military headquarters in Khartoum on Thursday after calls from protest leaders for a mass march to pressure the country's ruling generals to cede power.

Bearing Sudanese flags and banners calling for civilian government, they walked through central Khartoum before joining protesters who have staged a weeks-long sit-in outside the sprawling complex.

The site has become the focal point of the country's protest movement, which saw longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir ousted in April and has since been calling for the generals who replaced him to hand power to civilians.

"The Sudanese woman demands... justice, equality democracy, a civil government and fair government," said Hoyam al-Taj, a journalist in her thirties taking part in the march.

Nada Hashem, a young mother in brightly coloured traditional Sudanese dress, agreed.

"We want a civil state that will guarantee our rights as women and guarantee us a dignified life," she told AFP.

As they made their way through the capital to the sit-in, they chanted: "freedom, peace, justice, civil government is the people's choice!".

The Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement had called for people to gather at the site later on Thursday for a "million-strong march".

The women's march comes the day after the end of a two-day general strike to pressure military council, which took power after ousting Bashir, into resuming suspended talks over the future shape of a transitional authority.

The army ousted Bashir on April 11 after months of protests against his autocratic, three-decade rule.

Thousands of protesters have remained camped outside the sprawling Khartoum compound ever since.

The generals, backed by key Arab powers, have resisted calls from African and Western governments to step down.

The two sides had agreed on many aspects of the political transition, including its duration and the bodies to oversee it.

But negotiations broke down over the question of whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or military figure.

The head of the Transitional Military Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, was in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend several summits with Arab and Muslim leaders.

A statement from the council said that "several bilateral meetings are planned".

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