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US urges quick transition to civilian government in Sudan

May 8, 2019
FILE - In this April 30, 2019 file photo, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the military council, second right, speaks at a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan. As the uprising against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gained strength, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia began reaching out to the military through secret channels to encourage his removal from power. (AP Photo)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The United States on Wednesday urged Sudan’s transitional military council to move “expeditiously” toward a civilian-led government following last month’s overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan “expressed support for the Sudanese people’s aspirations for a free, democratic and prosperous future” in a phone call with the head of the military council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the State Department said in a statement.

Sullivan encouraged the military to reach an agreement with the protesters’ coalition “that reflects the will of the Sudanese people” and urged it to respect human rights.

The military removed al-Bashir from power last month, ending his 30-year reign after four months of mass protests. The protesters have demanded a rapid transition to a civilian-led government and have been locked in tense negotiations with the military council in recent weeks.

The military council said late Tuesday that a constitutional proposal from the protesters ignored the idea that Islamic Sharia law is the basis for the country’s legislation.

Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi, spokesman for the council, said council members have generally agreed with the protesters’ proposals for a transitional government.

But he said the proposal “failed to mention the sources of legislation, and the Islamic Sharia, norms and traditions should be the source of legislation.”

The protesters called the council’s response “disappointing.”

Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup orchestrated by Islamists and imposed a harsh version of Islamic law in the 1990s, including punishments like amputations and stoning. The laws required that women dress conservatively and enshrined notions of male guardianship.

The protesters have called for a civil, democratic state but have not adopted a firm position on Islamic law, perhaps fearing it could split their coalition.

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