Home | News    Sunday 26 September 2004

Sudanese president: Opposition party can stand if leader denounced

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KHARTOUM, Sudan, Sep 26, 2004 (AP) — President Omar el-Bashir vowed Sunday to allow the opposition Popular Congress Party, which he accuses in a failed coup attempt, to resume its full political activities if it denounces and isolates its leader, Hassan Turabi.

Turabi, once a powerful ally to el-Bashir, remains a formidable force in Sudanese politics. The president accused Turabi, an Islamic fundamentalist idealogue who leads the opposition Popular Congress Party, of being the "main mastermind" behind a coup plot, though Turabi has been in custody most of the time since another alleged coup attempt in March.

"They, and we, all know this work has been masterminded by Turabi," el-Bashir told leaders of trade unions and other popular organizations. "Let them (party members) come out, denounce Hassan Turabi and isolate him from the party and then we are ready to allow the Popular Congress to resume its full political activities."

The party’s newspaper will be allowed to resume publication and the party’s offices can open again if the party denounces Turabi, he said. Both were shut down in April.

El-Bashir said a recent hunger strike by Turabi that led to his hospitalization was only a ploy to get him out of detention so he could pass messages for the plot to be carried out.

The entire party leadership has been placed under arrest, el-Bashir said, without giving any figures. The government said the plot was foiled earlier this month, with numerous arrests and the seizure of large caches of weapons since Sept. 8. The government has said it had been scheduled for last Friday.

The government, el-Bashir said, could easily kill Turabi, but would not.

"It would not be difficult for us to bring Turabi, to issue a presidential decree and have his head chopped off. We could do it and our conscience would not be bothered," he said. "But we have established institutions and we will let those institutions do their work."

A coup attempt by Turabi’s party in March involved "planning to air-bomb oil installations in Gaili (25 kilometers north of Khartoum) and electricity installations, and then the military planes involved would sneak into Eritrea," el-Bashir said.

Sudan and Eritrea long have traded accusations of supporting each other’s opposition.

This time, el-Bashir said, the plot involved assassinating senior government officials and creating chaos in the capital, Khartoum.

"This plot was aimed to effect anarchy inside Khartoum, and if this had happened inside Khartoum then what would have happened to other inflamed areas in the country? This is a criminal act that targeted the whole homeland," el-Bashir said.

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