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Sudan president seeks to renew state of emergency

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KHARTOUM, Dec 14 (AFP) — Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir is seeking to extend a state of emergency for another year because of the conflict in Darfur and security problems in other areas of the country, the state-run SUNA news agency reported Tuesday.

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Omar el-Bashir

Beshir has gone to the national assembly to secure a renewal of the emergency laws, which are due to expire on December 31, as well as a six-month extension of parliament’s term, the agency said.

The pro-government assembly is due to debate, and almost certainly approve, the proposals on Sunday but opposition leaders have already denounced the move.

Democratic Unionist Party vice-chairman Ali Mahmoud Hassanain, in an interview to independent Akhbar Al Youm daily, said the renewal was "a continuation of an anti-democracy policy".

"I cannot see any justification for imposing the state of emergency in regions free of military operations except that the government intends to rule by emergency laws," said Hassanain.

Umma Party assistant secretary general Meriam Sadeq al-Mahdi said the extension implied that the government "will oppose democracy, transperancy and other fruits of a just peace."

"The state of emergency poisons the political atmosphere rather than prepares it for a better situation," Mahdi said, a view echoed by other opposition groups.

Talks aimed at ending the conflict in southern Sudan are due to resume in Kenya on Tuesday, facing an end-of-year deadline to sign a peace accord ending Africa’s longest civil war.

At least 1.5 million people have been killed and over four million others displaced by the war, which erupted in 1983 when the mainly Christian and animist south took up arms to end domination by the Arabised Muslim north.

But in the country’s other main area of conflict, the western region of Darfur, leaders of the rebellion there pulled out of peace talks in Nigeria aimed at ending the 22-month-old unrest.

That conflict, in which about 70,000 people have been killed and another 1.5 million people driven from their homes, has been described by the United Nations as the world’s worst current humanitarian crisis.

The United States has blamed Khartoum and its Janjaweed militia allies for what Washington terms genocide, while Western officials have accused the militia of widespread abuse of human rights, including murder and mass rape.

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