Sudan restructures military council

New army chief, deputy chief appointed

Sudanese demonstrators gather near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Monday. — AFP

Khartoum — Sudan's military council on Monday said it was restructuring the military command council and appointed Col. Gen. Hashem Abdel Muttalib Ahmed Babakr as army chief of staff.

Col. Gen. Mohamed Othman Al-Hussein was appointed as deputy chief of staff, the council said in a statement.

But military rulers faced pressure from demonstrators and Western governments to hand power to a new civilian government as activists warned of an attempt to disperse a 10-day-old mass protest outside army headquarters.

Thousands remained camped outside the complex in Khartoum overnight after protest leaders issued demands to the military council set up following the ouster of veteran president Omar Al-Bashir.

The organization that spearheaded the months of protests leading to Bashir's fall, the Sudanese Professionals Association, called on their supporters to boost the numbers at the complex.

"There is an attempt to disperse the sit-in from the army headquarters area, they are trying to remove the barricades," the SPA said in a statement, without saying who was responsible.

"We call on our people to come immediately to the sit-in area to protect our revolution."

Witnesses said several army vehicles had surrounded the area and that troops were seen removing the barricades which demonstrators had put up as a security measure.

Britain's ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, met the new military council's deputy and stated his "top request was no violence and no attempt to forcibly break the sit in".

In the meeting with Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Himeidti, Siddik wrote on Twitter that he also backed the SPA's call for a civilian administration. The talks came a day after the embassies of Britain, the United States and Norway issued a joint statement saying the "legitimate change" the Sudanese people demanded had not taken place.

"It is time for the transitional military council and all other parties to enter into an inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule," they said.

The SPA has said a transitional government and the armed forces must bring to justice both Bashir and officials from his feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

The military council on Sunday met with political parties and urged them to agree on an "independent figure" to be prime minister.

"We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice and democracy," a council member, Lt. Gen. Yasser Al-Ata, told members of several political parties.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters delivered a list of demands during talks with the council late Saturday, according to a statement by the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group.

But in a press conference, the council's spokesman did not respond to the protesters' latest demands.

American actor George Clooney, who has campaigned hard to draw attention to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, over the weekend urged world powers to pressure the military "to turn over full executive power to a civilian-led transitional government". — Agencies

By Jay Deshmukh and Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali