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Sudanese army faces widening opposition to takeover

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October 28, 2021

KHARTOUM (Reuters) -The Sudanese army was facing widening opposition on Thursday to this week’s coup, with state officials in Khartoum vowing disobedience and activists mobilising mass demonstrations planned for the weekend.

The takeover, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/general-who-led-sudanese-coup-2021-10-26 on Monday against a civilian government, has brought thousands of people on to the streets to reject a return of military rule and demand a transition towards civilian rule be put back on track.

With the coup condemned by the West, a U.N. official urged Burhan to start a dialogue with ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and offered to facilitate a political settlement.

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A statement issued by the office of U.N. special representative to Sudan Volker Perthes did not say how Burhan had responded to the offer made at a meeting on Wednesday.

Perthes urged Burhan to deescalate the situation.

The coup brought an end to a shaky transitional set-up intended to lead to elections in 2023 by sharing power between civilians and the military following the fall of Omar al-Bashir, who the army deposed after a popular uprising two years ago.

In a statement posted on Facebook overnight, ministries and agencies of Sudan’s most populous state, Khartoum, which includes the capital and twin city Omdurman, said they would not step aside or hand over their duties.

They declared a general strike, joining unions in sectors such as healthcare and aviation, although they said they would continue to supply flour, cooking gas and emergency medical care.

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The main market, banks and filling stations in Khartoum were still closed on Thursday. Hospitals were providing only emergency services. Smaller shops were open, but there were long queues for bread.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted overnight that he had spoken by phone to Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Blinken said he condemned the arrest of civilian leaders in Sudan and discussed with Mahdi “how the U.S. can best support the Sudanese people’s call for a return to civilian-led transition to democracy”.

Hamdok, initially held at Burhan’s residence, was allowed to return home under guard on Tuesday. A source close to him said he remains committed to a civilian democratic transition and the goals of the revolt that toppled Bashir.

VIOLENCE FEARED

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The toll of people killed in clashes with security forces since Monday climbed to eight, with a 22-year-old man dying of gunshot wounds, a medical source said. Opponents fear the army-led authorities could deploy more force.

The source close to Hamdok said the prime minister had called for the military to avoid violence against protesters.

Opponents of the coup have been handing out fliers calling for a “march of millions” on Saturday against military rule, falling back on old methods of mobilisation with the authorities restricting the use of internet and phones.

The protest is being called under the slogan “Leave!” used in the protests that brought down Bashir.

Since the anti-Bashir uprising, protests have been organised through neighbourhood committees that can mobilise locally without access to the internet or to major roads closed by security forces.

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Sudan has been in the midst of a deep economic crisis with record inflation and shortages of basic goods, which only recently showed signs of possible improvement helped by aid that major Western donors say will end unless the coup is reversed.

More than half the population is living in poverty and child malnutrition stands at 38%, according to the United Nations.

Burhan’s move reasserted the army’s dominant role in Sudan since independence in 1956, after weeks of mounting tension https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/what-is-happening-sudan-2021-10-25 between the military and civilians in the transitional government over issues including whether to hand Bashir and others over to The Hague where they are wanted for war crimes.

Burhan has said he acted to stop the country slipping into civil war and has promised elections in July 2023.

With backing from the United States, the transitional government had won Western debt relief, secured Sudan’s removal from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism and taken steps to normalise ties with Israel.

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Western envoys had warned Burhan that assistance, including a now frozen $700 million in U.S. aid and $2 billion from the World Bank, would cease if he took power. Sources said he ignored those warnings under pressure from inside the military and with a “green light” from Russia.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in CairoWriting by Tom PerryEditing by Peter Graff and Nick Macfie)

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One of suspected killers of Saudi journalist Khashoggi arrested in France – RTL

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December 7, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at the Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, French RTL radio reported.

RTL said the person arrested was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been involved in the killing of Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Writing by GV De Clercq, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Biden, Putin begin talks, RIA says, after U.S. warning of toughest sanctions yet if Russia invades Ukraine

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December 7, 2021

By Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden began a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Russian state television said, after U.S. officials warned Moscow could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine.

The officials said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.

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The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.

But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.

Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.

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The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying that the U.S. sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

Ahead of his first direct talks with Putin since July, Biden discussed the sanctions plan with European allies on Monday, seeking a strong joint stance in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They called on Russia to defuse tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams would stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a “coordinated and comprehensive approach”, the White House said.

Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.

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A separate source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin’s inner circle has been discussed but no decision made. Sanctions against Russia’s biggest banks and curbing the conversion of roubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Alexander Marrow, Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Catherine Evans and Mark Heinrich)

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Britain reports 101 more cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

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December 7, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has found a further 101 confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the UK Health Security Agency said on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 437.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg)

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