Sudan coup: Military reaches out to protesters

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The speech came after the resignation of feared security chief Gen Salah Gosh hours after the coup leader himself, Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf, stepped aside.

Lieutenant General Omar Zein Abedeen, the military council's political committee chief, said: "The role of the military council is to protect the security and stability of the country".

Burhan now has the tough task of persuading the tens of thousands of protesters who remain on the streets that he is not just another general from the Bashir regime but is genuinely committed to civilian-led reform.

But protest leaders say that a change of military ruler will make no difference; what they want is an immediate handover to a civilian government. He did not explain his reasons for the resignation but promptly named another general, Abdel-Fatah al-Burhan Abdel-Rahman, as his replacement.

Military leaders in Sudan said presidential elections would take place after a two-year period of military rule following the ouster of Bashir.

The umbrella group organising the protests called on newly sworn-in ruler Gen Burhan to "transfer the powers of the military council to a transitional civilian government".

The Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), a leading group in the protest campaign that began late previous year against Bashir, called ibn Auf and Mahi's resignation a "victory for the will of the masses". Maisoun Badawi, a former private-sector development specialist who worked in Sudan for a multinational company, said that more than 70 per cent of the state budget was allocated to security services from 2005-2010.

The protests against him escalated last Saturday when thousands of demonstrators, apparently bolstered by change in Algeria following similar protests, marched towards the Defense Ministry in Khartoum to deliver a memorandum demanding the military side with them.

Bashir's ouster comes only days after the same happened to his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika who was equally forced to resign after intense protests and demonstrations.

Mr Ibn Auf was head of military intelligence during the Darfur conflict and the United States imposed sanctions on him in 2007.

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The leader was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after allegations of genocide in Sudan's Darfur region surfaced.

Bashir's fall came after months of unrest in Sudan that was sparked in December over rising prices. "We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir".

Leading protest group, the Sudanese Professionals' Association, issued a statement rejecting the military's declaration, claiming its intervention "reproduced the same faces and institutions that our courageous people have revolted against".

Speaking on state TV, Awad Ibn Ouf said the army had chose to oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections.

"There is still hope that a coordinated campaign from within and outside Sudan will influence the new military council to hand over power to a transitional civilian government".

Sudan's deputy U.N. ambassador, Yasir Abdalla Abdelsalam Ahmed, told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that any democratic process in the country required time, and he urged the global community to support a peaceful transition.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that a two-year transition overseen by the military "is not the answer".

"In both countries, people are fed up by seeing the people sitting in power, calling all the shots, and pocketing the money", said Pierini, a former European Union ambassador to Tunisia and Libya, Syria, Morocco and Turkey.

Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman, who now leads the military council, was the inspector general of the Sudanese armed forces and its third most senior general.

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