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Draft Sudan deal seeks to cement military’s grip

Factions aligned with Sudan’s military have drawn up a deal to form a transitional government that would cement the army’s control and bypass pro-democracy groups it shared power with before an October coup, according to a document seen by Reuters and three sources familiar with the agreement.

The draft deal comes with the military under pressure from a deteriorating economy and frequent protests that have continued despite a lethal crackdown by security forces.

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The military takeover derailed a transition that had raised hopes in Sudan of an end to decades of autocracy, civil conflict and economic isolation after former president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a 2019 uprising.

Three sources from groups that back the draft deal, which has not been previously reported, said it had support from some political parties aligned with the military, former rebels who signed a peace deal in 2020, and some tribal and religious leaders.

It was drawn up by politicians close to the military and is acceptable to the military, said a fourth, senior source with knowledge of discussions around the deal.

It includes some steps that the military had already indicated it would take, such as the appointment of a technocratic cabinet and parliament to govern until elections expected next year, and the nomination of judicial bodies and an election commission.

It also elevates the military as Sudan’s paramount authority, diverging sharply from the power-sharing enshrined after Bashir’s overthrow in a Constitutional Declaration that remained a reference point even after the coup.

“The military is the institutional authority and overseer of the transition, and takes on the powers of the Security and Defense Council, similar to the experience of the April 1986 transition,” the document says, referring to a previous interregnum when the military ruled for a year before elections.

Representatives of the military declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Political parties that strongly supported the 2019 uprising and neighborhood resistance committees leading the current protests have publicly refused dialogue with the military, demanding it quit politics.

Protests persist

Protesters gathered in the capital Khartoum and other cities once more on Wednesday, the anniversary of a sit-in that culminated with Bashir’s overthrow.

The three sources said the military was still seeking to broaden support for the draft deal by courting Sudan’s two largest traditional parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Umma Party, or factions within them.

Last week, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met the DUP leader during a visit to Cairo. The DUP also held a conference in the Egyptian capital seeking to unify its disparate factions.

Burhan recently said the military would hand over power only after elections, and threatened to expel a United Nations envoy trying to facilitate a political agreement alongside the African Union. Ambassadors from the United States, Britain, and Norway said on Tuesday they had held a “frank and constructive conversation” with Burhan, expressing support for dialogue leading to a “credible civilian transitional government.”

Western powers have said that such a government is a key condition for any restoration of billions of dollars in international economic support for Sudan suspended after the coup.

The draft deal says political prisoners would be released as a confidence-building measure, a pledge that had also been made in a short-lived deal struck one month after the coup to bring back Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister.

Among those currently held are leaders of the Forces of Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC), which shared power with the military before the coup. They were members of a task force that worked to dismantle the political, bureaucratic and financial apparatus that ran Sudan under Bashir’s iron rule.

The agreement orders the review of the task force’s work, a process that Burhan has already launched. Many people fired by the task force have recently been reinstated by court order to posts in state media, the foreign ministry, justice department and other institutions.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which led anti-Bashir protests, warned that his dissolved National Congress Party (NCP) was beginning to hold meetings again and reorganize.

The military, which said political infighting necessitated its takeover, has repeatedly said that all groups except the NCP should be free to participate in the transition and elections.

Read more: Sudan to seek $1 bln deposit in central bank to boost its currency

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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

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