Sudan protesters rally outside army HQ for first time

Thousands of people marched towards Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir's residence and the defence ministry in central Khartoum on April 6, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 April 2019
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Sudan protesters rally outside army HQ for first time

  • The Sudanese Professionals Association has been spearheading anti-government protests that erupted in December
  • Saturday's marches come on the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of President Jaafar Al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup

KHARTOUM: Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators marched in Khartoum Saturday, many reaching the army headquarters for the first time since deadly protests against President Omar Al-Bashir erupted last year, witnesses said.
Chanting "One Army, One People," the protesters rallied in the capital's streets following a call by organisers to march on the compound, which also includes Bashir's residence.
The crowds chanted the movement's catchcry "peace, justice, freedom" as they marched towards the complex where the defence ministry is also based, onlookers said.
"They were also calling on Bashir to step down," a witness said.
Taking a break from shouting anti-government slogans, protester Ghada Mohamed said the rally signalled a "bright future" for Sudan.
Protester Amir Omer said the demonstrators had managed to send a message to the military.
"We still haven't achieved our goal, but we have delivered our message to the army and that is: come join us," he told AFP.
Protest organisers led by the Sudanese Professionals Association said earlier this week that demonstrators would march Saturday to demand the army either "take the side of the people or the dictator's".
Soon after reaching the compound, organisers called on the protesters to hold in place outside its fortified walls.
"At this historic moment, we ask you to not leave the army headquarters and hold a sit-in in the nearby streets," the organisers said in a statement.
"We appreciate that the army did not touch the protesters and we hope that it will take the side of the people."
Since the protests erupted, security agents and riot police have cracked down on demonstrators but the army has not intervened.
In a separate demonstration Saturday, protesters reached the army office in the town of Madani southeast of the capital, witnesses told AFP by telephone.
Protests have rocked the east African country since December, with angry crowds accusing Bashir's government of mismanaging the economy that has led to soaring food prices and regular shortages of fuel and foreign currency.
Demonstrations first erupted on December 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
But they quickly escalated into nationwide rallies against Bashir's rule, with protestors calling on him to step down.
On February 22, the veteran leader imposed a nationwide state of emergency to quell the protests after an initial crackdown failed to rein in protesters.
Since emergency rule came into effect, the demonstrations have been largely confined to the capital and its twin city of Omdurman, but organisers had called for widespread rallies and a march on the army headquarters on Saturday.

April 6 was chosen for the nationwide rallies as it was the day of a 1985 uprising that toppled the then regime of president Jaafar Nimeiri.
Before the protests began, security forces deployed in large numbers in key Khartoum squares and in Omdurman, across the Nile.
"There's a heavy security deployment where the protesters were to gather for the march, but they still came out and are chanting anti-government slogans," a witness told AFP without revealing his name for security reasons.
Security agents were preventing passers-by from reaching downtown areas and ordered shops and markets in the area closed, witnesses said.
"Those walking in groups were immediately detained or asked to return to their homes by security forces," another onlooker said.
Activists in recent days have been circulating leaflets urging residents to participate in Saturday's march, residents said.
The protest movement was initially led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, but later several political parties including the main opposition National Umma Party threw their support behind it.
Analysts say the movement has emerged as the biggest challenge yet to Bashir's three-decade rule.
But the veteran leader has remained defiant, introducing tough measures that have seen protesters, opposition leaders, activists and journalists arrested.
Officials say 31 people have been killed in protest related violence so far, but Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51 including children and medics.


Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

Updated 16 July 2019
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Iran’s top diplomat warns US is ‘playing with fire’

  • Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal
  • The US quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions

UNITED NATIONS: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is “playing with fire,” echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.
Tensions have since soared, with the US calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an American drone, and Washington blaming the Islamic republic for a series of attacks on tanker ships.
“I think the United States is playing with fire,” Zarif told NBC News.
Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.
But “it can be reversed within hours,” Zarif told the channel, adding: “We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.”
Zarif’s comments came as the United States imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations.
Weeks after the United States threatened sanctions against Zarif, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington issued him a visa but forbade him from moving beyond six blocks of Iran’s UN mission in Midtown Manhattan.
“US diplomats don’t roam around Tehran, so we don’t see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.
No US diplomats are based in Iran as the two countries broke off relations in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah.
“Foreign Minister Zarif, he uses the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda,” the top US diplomat said.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the UN Secretariat was in contact with the US and Iranian missions about Zarif’s travel restrictions and “has conveyed its concerns to the host country.”
The United States, as host of the United Nations, has an agreement to issue visas promptly to foreign diplomats on UN business and only rarely declines.
Washington generally bars diplomats of hostile nations from traveling outside a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of New York’s Columbus Circle.
Zarif is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the UN Economic and Social Council, which is holding a high-level meeting on sustainable development.
Despite the restrictions, the decision to admit Zarif is the latest sign that Trump’s administration appears to be retreating from its vow to place sanctions on him as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 24 that sanctions against Zarif would come later that week.
Critics questioned the legal rationale for targeting Zarif and noted that sanctions would all but end the possibility of dialogue — which Trump has said is his goal.
Zarif said in an interview with The New York Times he would not be affected by sanctions as he owns no assets outside of Iran.