US holds talks with Sudan coup leader Gen Al Burhan

US assistant secretary of state also meets ousted prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and former foreign minister Mariam Al Mahdi

A senior US diplomat visiting Khartoum on Tuesday met leaders on opposing sides of the military coup that toppled the Sudanese government and provoked condemnation around the world.

US assistant secretary of state Molly Phee was told by coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan that steps were being taken to release those arrested in the three weeks since the October 25 coup, state news agency Suna reported.

Those facing criminal charges would not be released and would eventually be tried, Gen Al Burhan said.

Among those detained is ousted prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, who has been under house arrest since the coup.

Mr Hamdok's discussions with Ms Phee, who is on a three-day visit to Sudan, centred on restoring its democratic transition.

The US embassy said Ms Phee also met Mariam Al Mahdi, the foreign minister in the civilian-led government toppled by Gen Al Burhan.

The meeting was meant "to show US support for the civilian-led transitional government", the ministry said.

Last month’s coup ended a transitional partnership between the military and civilian pro-democracy groups, which organised months of street protests against dictator Omar Al Bashir, eventually forcing the military to remove him in April 2019.

The US has strongly stated its opposition to the coup and insisted the democratic transition be put back on track. It has suspended $700 million in much-needed aid to Sudan in protest.

But efforts at mediating a way out of the deepening crisis have stalled, with Gen Al Burhan moving to consolidate the military’s grip on power, partially with help from veterans of Al Bashir’s 29-year regime.

Gen Al Burhan, who was regarded as close to Al Bashir, last week appointed himself chairman of a new ruling Sovereign Council.

The 14-member body met for the second time on Tuesday and discussed the appointment of a new prime minister, Suna reported.

Besides dismissing Mr Hamdok’s government, Gen Al Burhan has also detained members of his Cabinet, declared an indefinite state of emergency, and suspended the work of a state commission given the task of dismantling Al Bashir’s legacy.

He has ordered the arrest of scores of critics, including journalists, activists and trade and professional union leaders.

Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly claimed that the military’s takeover was not a coup, but a “correction” of the democratic transition.

Mass protest rallies planned in Khartoum

Local resistance committees in Khartoum, meanwhile, are planning mass rallies in the capital on Wednesday to demand that the military steps aside and allows civilians to take power.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in demonstrations across the country on Saturday. They were met by what activists described as excessive use of force, with security forces using live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

At least eight protesters were killed in the latest rallies and about 200 wounded, a union of medics linked to the pro-democracy movement said.

The latest deaths take to at least 25 the number of people killed by security forces since the coup. At least 500 have been wounded.

With additional reporting from Reuters
Updated: November 16th 2021, 9:58 PM
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