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By Khalid Abdelaziz

Sudan's opposition guarded on army pledge to leave talks to civilians

FILE PHOTO: Former cabinet minister, Khalid Omer Yousif, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Khartoum, Sudan January 31, 2022. Picture taken January 31, 2022. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddiq

Sudanese political parties sidelined by a coup last October gave a guarded response on Tuesday to the army's pledge to step aside from a dialogue initiative and let civilian groups hold talks to form a government.

The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition said a speech on Monday by army leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan failed to spell out how the military would withdraw from politics, as demanded by the civilian opposition.

Protesters gather during a sit-in rally against military rule following the last coup and to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of demonstrations in Khartoum, Sudan July 3, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Burhan's decisions "are a clear manoeuvre and tactical retreat that appear to accept the principle of the army returning to the barracks, while emptying this principle of any content", a statement from the FFC said.

Last year's military takeover ended a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian groups agreed following the 2019 overthrow of long-time autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir.

It has led to more than eight months of mass street protests against the military, with most civilian groups refusing to negotiate with the army.

During the latest rallies, on Thursday, medics said nine people were killed by security forces, and protesters have since been holding sit-ins in the capital, Khartoum.

On Monday, Burhan said the military would not take part in internationally-backed dialogue efforts to break the stalemate, but leave civilian groups to negotiate to form a government.

The existing ruling council, which Burhan heads and which includes some civilian members, would then be dissolved, and a high military council would be formed, he said.

Khalid Omer Yousif, an FFC leader and senior cabinet member before the coup, said Burhan's speech was an attempt to absorb public pressure while maintaining military authority over the political process.

"Yesterday's speech did not address the essence of the crisis, which is the military coup last October," he told Reuters.

"We reject the speech of Burhan," said Bashir Suleiman, a 33-year-old protester at the sit-in in central Khartoum, who said the army would retain power through the high military council. "Our demand is for a fully civilian state."

(Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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