UAE backs Sudan's transitional military ruler

Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan's appointment as a step towards stability

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The UAE has thrown its support behind Sudan's transitional military council after mass protests forced longtime president Omar Al Bashir from power.

Sudan is being run by a military council led by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, who was sworn in on Friday after his predecessor, Gen Awad ibn Ouf, stepped down a day after the removal of Mr Al Bashir.

On Saturday the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation welcomed Gen Al Burhan's appointment as a "step forward reflecting the ambitions of the brotherly people of Sudan towards security, stability and development".

The ministry called on the Sudanese "to work towards protecting legitimacy and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power".

Sudanese protest organisers, meanwhile, presented demands including creation of a civilian government in talks with the country's new military rulers late on Saturday, the group leading demonstrations said.

Thousands remained outside the army headquarters in the capital overnight to keep up the pressure on the military council that took power after ousting Mr Al Bashir on Thursday.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters held talks with the council and delivered their demands on Saturday, the Alliance for Freedom and Change said.

One of the alliance's leaders, Omar Al Degier, said the demands included restructuring the country's feared National Intelligence and Security Service, the chief of which, Salih Ghosh, resigned after Mr Al Bashir's removal.

"We will continue our sit-in until all our demands are met," Mr Al Degier said.

The alliance insisted that civilian representatives should be accepted on to the military council and that a fully civilian government should be formed to run daily administration.

"We surely want our demands to be met but both sides will have to be flexible to reach a deal," said a protester who spent the night at the army complex.

On Saturday, Gen Al Burhan pledged to dismantle Mr Al Bashir's regime, and he lifted a curfew with immediate effect.

"I announce the restructuring of state institutions according to the law and pledge to fight corruption and uproot the regime and its symbols," he said.

Gen Al Burhan also pledged that people implicated in killing protesters would face justice and that demonstrators held under a recent state of emergency would be freed.

epa07506162 Leader of Sudan's transitional council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan attends a meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, 14 April 2019. Burhan is leading a transitional council that will rule Sudan during a two-year transition phase following the ouster of long-time President Omar al-Bashir.  EPA/STRINGER

Mr Al Bashir remained in custody and his National Congress Party on Saturday urged the military council to release arrested members.

Saudi Arabia has also backed the transitional military council and promised an aid package including wheat, medicine and "petroleum products", the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

But outside the Middle East, the formation of a military government to replace Mr Al Bashir has been criticised.

The African Union said his overthrow was "not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people."

The EU urged the army to carry out a swift handover to civilian rule, and former colonial ruler Britain said that the two-year transition announced by the military "is not the answer".

"We need to see a swift move to an inclusive, representative, civilian leadership," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Members of the military council have sought to reassure foreign diplomats about its intentions.

"This is not a military coup but taking the side of the people," the council's political chief, Lt Gen Omar Al Abdin told Arab and African diplomats at a meeting broadcast on state television on Friday.

The International Criminal Court has longstanding arrest warrants against Mr Al Bashir for suspected genocide and war crimes during the regime's brutal campaign of repression in Darfur.

But the military council said it would not extradite him or any other Sudanese citizen.

Tens of thousands of people have massed outside the army headquarters since April 6, initially to urge the armed forces to back their demand that Mr Al Bashir be removed.