King Salman expresses Saudi solidarity with Sudan President Omar Al Bashir

Riyadh will continue to back the embattled leader amid widespread protests

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud attends the 2019 budget meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Saudi King Salman has stressed the kingdom’s solidarity with Sudan as its embattled leader confronts economic challenges and protests against his rule.

During a ministerial meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday, King Salman said that Sudan’s “security and stability is the kingdom’s security and stability,” according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has struggled to quell nationwide demonstrations against his government.

Last week, King Salman sent a ministerial delegation to Sudan which included the Minister of Commerce, transport and the Minister of State for African Affairs.

Speaking for the ministerial delegation, Dr Majid Al Qasabi, the Minister of Commerce, said their aim was to enhance economic relations and increase trade with the east African nation.

He said Saudi Arabia has provided 8 billion Saudi riyals (Dh7.84 billion) to Sudan over the last four years in loans for development projects.

Sudan is a part of the Arab Coalition fighting in Yemen.

But on January 22, the Sudanese President went to Qatar hoping to gain financial support. Doha refused.

Mr Al Bashir also met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who expressed concern over the protests that have killed more than 30.

Mr Al Bashir’s visit to Cairo on Sunday was his second trip abroad since deadly protests erupted at home on December 19.

Mr Al Bashir has blamed the economic woes on the US. Washington lifted its trade embargo on Sudan in October 2017 after two decades of sanctions but that failed to revive the country’s financial situation.

Large cash injections from Gulf states have helped the Muslim-majority state stave off economic collapse.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, security agents in Sudan briefly detained a senior opposition leader, her family said, as authorities pressed on with a crackdown on anti-government protests.

Mariam Sadiq Al Mahdi, deputy chief of the Umma party, was taken from her home in Khartoum by officers of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), her sister Rabah Sadiq Al Mahdi told AFP, adding that she was released after questioning.

As Umma's deputy head, Mariam has regularly campaigned against Mr Al Bashir's government.

Her father, former premier Sadiq Al Mahdi, has backed the ongoing protest movement.

Mr Al Bashir swept to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup that toppled a democratically-elected government led by Mr Mahdi.

"This regime has to go immediately," Mr Mahdi told hundreds of worshippers at a mosque in Omdurman at weekly prayers last Friday.

After nearly a year in exile, Mr Mahdi returned to Sudan on December 19, the same day as the wave of protests erupted against the government.

On Tuesday, NISS head Salah Ghosh had ordered the release of all detainees held during anti-government rallies.