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February 2014 - Posts

50% of Sudanese without access to basic medicine: parliament

February 25, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s parliamantary subcommittee on health has revealed that 50% of the population do not have access to basic drugs, with 79% of people having to pay out of their own pockets to buy medicine due to difficulties facing drug imports.

Sudan’s General Authority for Medical Supplies disclosed that Arab and international banks refuse to receive funds from the country, sharply curtailing drug imports.

The head of the governmental body, Jamal Khalafalla, told the parliament subcommittee on health that efforts are underway to address the issue using a workaround by transferring money via Sudanese embassies abroad.

Subcommittee chairman Abdul-Aziz Itnain underscored that rising drug prices is one of the main drivers of poverty, pledging to take action to address the lack of funds needed to import it.

However, the gecretary-general of the Consumer Protection Association of Sudan, Yasser Mirghani, argued in statements to Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV that funds are available, but that some commercial banks had transferred money to non-pharmaceutical companies.

Mirghani claimed that he was in possession of a list of the companies responsible, calling on the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS) to take measures to recover the funds by next April or he would make the list public.

Last November, Sudan’s Drug Importers Chamber (DIC) revealed that 31 foreign pharmaceutical companies had refused to deal with Sudan until outstanding credits amounting to $90 million are repaid, accusing the CBoS of failing to provide the necessary foreign exchange for drug importation.

Following South Sudan’s independence in mid-2011, Khartoum lost access to more than three-quarters of its oil reserves that were the main driver of an economic boom that lasted for much of the past decade.

Since then the government has struggled with a shortage of hard currency and revenue as the pound sank in value on the widely used black market and inflation soared.

Juba denies Sudan rebels involved in South Sudan conflict

February 24, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government has strongly dismissed reports alleging that is was harbouring Sudanese rebels in the country to help it fight dissent forces loyal to its former vice-president, Riek Machar.

"There is nothing like that. We do not have foreign forces hostile to their governments inside the territory of the republic of South Sudan. If there is something which the Sudanese press wants to cover with these unfounded allegations, then they should say it,” South Sudan presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny told Saturday.

The presidential spokesperson was reacting to an article published on Sudan Vision, a government newspaper, Saturday entitled “Juba, Sudanese Rebel Movements, What Then". The article said Sudanese rebel groups now want a recompense after taking part in the fight against Machar’s forces.

"The important question what is the future of the Sudanese rebel groups which fought along the South Sudanese government? The Sudanese rebel movements are waiting for political reward from the South Sudanese government for engagement in the fighting", said the report.

"Actually we do not want to point fingers though we believe the rebels of Riek Machar are getting foreign support,” he added, stressing the significance of the September 2012 Cooperation Agreement between Sudan and South Sudan.

"We cannot do that," the spokesperson said, denying that his government provides any support to the Sudanese rebel groups. He stressed that the two countries have agreed to work together for peace and stability for the mutual benefits and other interests to their citizens and the region.

"If we want foreign support from foreign forces as an independent state, and we think Sudan is the right country, we will approach the government of Sudan as we did with the government of Uganda for military supports," he said.

Sudan, despite its previous accusations against Juba, announced its support to the elected president Salva Kiir. The Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir visited Juba on 6 January where he announced his support to his South Sudan counterpart.

However Khartoum has shown some frustration from the presence of Ugandan troops in the South Sudan. Museveni is seen as seeking to destabilise Bashir’s regime. Kampala harbours the Sudanese rebel groups and accused of providing them military training and weapons.

The South Sudanese rebels during the past weeks accused the Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement of participating with the SPLA forces in the recapture of the capital of Unity state, Bentiu. But JEM rebels strongly dismissed the accusations.

The spokesperson of South Sudan army (SPLA) equally refuted allegations of being supported by Sudanese rebels, describing them as "unfounded statements on rebel propaganda"

“The Sudanese press should observe the growing relations between the two countries and report accordingly. They should not rely on the media reports based on propaganda statements by the rebels about the alleged presence of the Sudanese rebels,” Col. Philip Aguer told.

"First of all, we have said time and again that there are no Sudanese rebels in the Republic of South Sudan, let alone the unfounded allegations that they are fighting alongside us. The rebel themselves have issued repeated statements clarifying these allegations, yet the Sudanese press continue to ignore these for reasons best known to them”, he added.

The military officer did not, however, hint on whether South Sudan government would request an explanation from Sudanese authorities about persistent reports that its army provides support to Machar rebels currently fighting forces loyal to President Kiir.

Since the start of the inter-South Sudanese crisis in December 2013, many foreign officials urged both sides to halt military hostilities and settle the conflict peacefully.

Many hands pointed to the eventual involvement of the Sudanese government as the South Sudanese oil production is shipped through Khartoum.

Last December, Machar said oil production would not be stopped and pledged to place revenues from oil in an extra account until the conflict is over.

Some analysts went to say that the rebel leader would seek to struck an alliance with Khartoum to ensure continuation of oil exportation to save it’s troubled economy.

However, since the Juba army regained control of oil areas in Unity and Upper Nile state, the oil field have remained in the hands of government forces.

Bashir and Kiir discussed in their meeting of January ways to ensure the continuation of oil flow through the Sudanese pipeline, but the two sides dismissed reports about the deployment of a joint forces to protect the production fields.

Fighting between the South Sudanese government troops and the rebels has displaced hundreds of thousands of people since December last year. Several lives have also been lost.

Also talks between the two rival factions hit a deadlock early this week after it emerged that the rebels opposed to the leadership had taken full control of Malakal, the strategic Upper Nile state capital, located about 497km north-east of Juba.

Sudanese security seizes three newspapers over "breaches"

February 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) apparatus confiscated the Thursday edition of three newspapers that included al-Ahram al-Youm, al-Watan and Akhir-Lahza dailies.

But a source in the NISS media department told that they did not seize those newspapers but disrupted their distribution swiftly after they were published.

The source accused these newspapers of committing "numerous breaches" including their coverage of recent developments regarding the dispute with Egypt over the border Halayeb region describing it as a national sovereign issue.

"Halayeb is a red line," the source said.

The source also noted their coverage of issues that are still pending such as the Cottons Company adding that these measures will continue as long as newspapers continue to violate the journalistic code of ethics and NISS instructions.

He asserted that editors in chiefs have previously been warned about avoiding certain topics.

Al-Jareeda newspaper resumed publication a week ago after being suspended by NISS since January 26th.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Sudan Mashood Baderin said at a press conference on Wednesday , he met with NISS officials to convey to them complaints of restrictions on the press.

Baderin said that NISS officials told him that all measures taken by them against the press are done through legal procedures".

S. Sudan rebels claim to have taken partial control of Malakal

February 18, 2014 (JUBA) – Sources from the South Sudanese rebels claimed to have recaptured much of the strategic oil-rich town of Malakal on Tuesday morning, adding that the whole state capital will be under their full control in a matter of hours.

The sources further claimed Ugandan warplanes from Juba, the South Sudanese capital launched air attacks against the rebels around the Upper Nile state capital.

A reporter in the South Sudan capital said he saw military jet fighters on Tuesday taking off from Juba Airport and headed towards Malakal, a strategic town located 497km north-east of Juba.

“Our positions came under attacks by the government forces outside Malakal this morning and we had to strike back and pushed them back into Malakal. We have now recaptured about 70% of Malakal city and moving on,” said a military commander around Malakal who preferred anonymity because he was unauthorised to speak on behalf of the rebels.

Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson told Malakal has, since Tuesday morning, been a scene of intense ongoing clashes.

"We do not have full information at the moment, but we shall know the clear information in the next three hours", Aguer said by phone and blamed the attack on forces loyal to South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar.

Toby Lanzer, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan confirmed the outbreak of hostilities in Malakal between rebels and government troops.

"All parties engaged in the violence must uphold people’s rights and protect non-combatants," he tweeted Tuesday.


Sudan’s Bashir calls for increased efforts to protect oilfields

February 15, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has instructed the minister of oil Makkawi Mohamed Awad to double efforts to protect oilfields in coordination with oil producing states.

Awad said in press statements following his meeting with Bashir on Thursday that he briefed the president on his ministry’s efforts to increase oil production and solve problems with its partners.

The meeting came in wake of the minister’s inspection tour of oilfields in bloc 6 which falls under the concession of Petro-Energy Operating Company (PEOC) including fields of Baleela, Muga, Jeek, and Ki.

Awad stressed his ministry’s commitment to increasing oil production in order to compensate for oil loss which resulted from the secession of South Sudan through developing existing fields, adding new fields and intensifying exploration activities.

Sudan lost 75% of its oil reserves after the southern part of the country became an independent nation in July 2011 denying the north billions of dollars in revenues. Oil revenue constituted more than half of the Sudan’s revenue and 90% of its exports.

He called on PEOC to accelerate the pace of production particularly as the country depends on crude oil produced in bloc 6 to provide oil derivatives, pointing that his ministry raised the slogan of increasing productivity.

The cabinet economic development sector headed by the minister of finance, Badr al-Deen Mahmoud, has approved the oil ministry’s 2013 performance report which the minister submitted on Thursday.

The report indicates that oil reserves in Sudan have added 13.8 million barrels this year through nitrogen injection technology. It also shows the level of performance in refining oil crude in Khartoum and al-Obaid refineries have reached %89 while daily crude production reached %83.

Nitrogen injection is an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technology that uses nitrogen as the gas to improve oil recovery.

The report mentioned some security constraints which participated to lowering performance of the two-dimensional seismic survey, affirming the three-dimensional seismic survey achieved % 93 performance rates.

Seismic surveys are used to locate and estimate the size of underground oil and gas reserves. Seismic images are produced by generating, recording and analyzing sound waves that travel through the Earth.

The report further pointed that the targeted performance rate for oil wells drilling was achieved.

The cabinet meeting praised the performance of oil ministry, stressing the need to intensify efforts to increase oil production as well as disposing of hazardous materials in coordination with the ministry of environment, forestry, and urban development.

Last September, the Sudanese government lifted fuel subsidies which almost doubled their prices leading to wide protests across the country.

A gallon of gasoline now costs 21 Sudanese pounds ($4.77 based on official exchange rate) compared to 12.5 pounds ($2.84).

Diesel also went from 8 pounds ($1.81) a gallon to 14 pounds ($3.18).

Cooking gas cylinders are now are priced at 25 pounds ($5.68) from 15 pounds ($3.40).

Sudan currently produces 133,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). The country’s production is stationed mainly in Heglig area and its surroundings as well as western Kordofan.

Following secession of South Sudan, several foreign companies started exploration in new oil fields.

A Saudi company is working in Block 12 which is located in Sudan’s north-western corner near the borders with Libya, and a Canadian company shares exploration with the Sudanese company Sudapet in Block 14.

Sudan Energia is working in Block 18 which is located to the west of the river Nile. Block 11 is located in Kordofan, while Block 9 is located in the Gezira, Khartoum, and River Nile states.

Blocks 13 and 14 are on the coast of the Red sea, while Blocks 19, 22, 21 are inside the red sea. Block 10 is located between Kassala and Al-Gedaref states in eastern Sudan, and Block 8 is located in Sennar state.


10,000 Sudanese illegally migrated to Israel: official

February 13, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Secretariat of Sudanese Working Abroad (SSWA) has declared that 10,000 Sudanese citizens have illegally migrated to the state of Israel with one quarter of them coming from the restive region of Darfur and the remaining numbers from central and northern Sudan.

The secretary general of the SSWA, Karrar Al-Tuhami, said the numbers of illegal Sudanese migrants are going up adding that the majority of them are youth.

He said at a press conference in Khartoum on Sunday that the anti-human trafficking code must be implemented and protected, noting that Sudan was the third highest-ranking country in the 2013 global report on human trafficking.

Al-Tuhami pointed that Sudan became a source and a transit point for illegal immigration pledging that the SSWA will set up a statistical record for immigrants.

The U.S. state department 2012 report on human trafficking identifies Sudan as a "source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking".

Israel has deported at least 1,000 Sudanese citizens. The UN Refugee Agency said it was not Informed of the move, and that the deportees were forced to return to Sudan where visiting or living in Israel is a crime.

Sudan is an outspoken enemy of Israel; a visit to the country is punishable under Sudanese law, and residing in Israel is prosecuted as a grave crime. Sudanese passports state they are valid in every country except Israel.

The repatriation was reportedly carried out secretly over the last few months through a third country.

The Sudanese immigrants constitute one of the biggest African refugee groups in Israel. They illegally enter the country through Egypt.

Observers say that large numbers of Sudanese people leave the country legally and illegally due to worsening living conditions and economic distress.


Sudan acknowledges that visiting US figure is not a senator

February 11, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government stepped back from its earlier description of a visiting US figure and acknowledged that he is not a congressman as was reported by state media.

Last week, Sudan official news agency (SUNA) and state TV covered a visit by a delegation of American investors led by" Senator" Sonny Lee that expressed its desire to enter on Sudan’s oil and gas sector as well as refineries in Sudan despite US unilateral economic sanctions imposed since 1997.

Lee and his delegation met with the Sudanese officials including presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour, foreign minister Ali Karti, investment minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and oil minister Makkawi Mohamed Awad.

According to the former chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Relations subcommittee al-Tijani Mustafa, the US lawmaker affirmed the negative impact of these sanctions on American businesses and vowed to seek to have them lifted through amending laws in collaboration with other congressmen.

He went on to quote Lee as saying that "Sudan is a stable country and that its people do not deserve these sanctions and should be granted its natural right in international relations, like all other countries".

In a briefing before the Sudanese parliament on Monday, Karti said that Lee is an activist and not a senator noting that his reception shows that relations with the US will improve in the future.

Yesterday Journalist Faisal Mohamed Saleh in his daily column accused the government of being fooled and subsequently fooling the Sudanese people by highlighting Lee’s visit on state media.

Saleh said after extensive research on the internet, Lee turned out to be the chairman of Great American International Development Corporation (GAIDC). He is a member of the Rotary Club of New York which on its website stated that Lee s was awarded the Republican Senatorial Medal of Freedom described as "the highest honor the Republican members of the U.S. Senate can bestow".

"If we had a Ministry of Foreign Affairs that performed the bare minimum of its duties and mission they would have been keen on obtaining information on visiting foreign dignitaries and arranging suitable meetings and conferences for them," he wrote.

"We will continue to wonder, until we get the answer: Who arranged the man’s visit? Did he contact the Sudanese Embassy in Washington? Is the U.S. embassy in Khartoum aware about this visit? And on what basis do officials of foreign guests? Salih asked.

Sudan’s NUP leader al-Mahdi refuses to step down from party presidency

February 10, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, has affirmed that he would continue assuming his role as a chairman of the party pointing to his continuous achievements in the political arena.

Al-Mahdi accused those who call for his resignation of personifying issues, describing them as “malevolent” and “corrupt”, saying he suggested to president Omer Hassan al-Bashir, that all parties’ leaders should leave their posts following approval of a new national constitution.

The pro-government al-Rayaam daily newspaper on Sunday quoted Al-Mahdi as saying that his party continues to achieve one success after another to the extent that its ideas dominated the political arena.

“That means we are moving in the right direction, so why do you think I should abandon my achievements?” he added.

He mentioned that some political leaders have committed high treason and should therefore be held accountable while some others have become ineffective, wondering why effective and non-mistaken leaders are asked to retire.

The NUP leader further said he is not clinging to his post and he is able to accomplish many tasks away from it.

“I am not idle and if I left my position in the NUP, I would perform other tasks”, he added

He stressed that he enjoys wide support even outside of his party, saying he is currently occupied with several national issues including ending civil wars, drafting the new constitution besides establishing a national democratic regime in the country.

Al-Mahdi said that he doesn’t mind that NUP’s constitution sets specific tenure for the party chairman linking the move to the approval of Sudan’s new constitution.

He disclosed that he made a suggestion to Bashir that all leaders should step down following approval of the new constitution, saying NUP could change its chairman in the upcoming 8th convention which will be held next year.

The veteran leader pointed that internal party committees are currently working on addressing differences on the powers of the NUP politburo and its relation with the secretary general.

He fiercely attacked the leader of the dissolved NUP’s renewal and reform faction, Mubarak Al-Mahdi, holding him responsible for corruption and problems within the party.

“Mubarak Al-Mahdi walked into a completely failed political track so how could he adopt reform?” a;-Mahdi said

The NUP is one of Sudan’s oldest political parties dating back to the 19th century. The party has its roots in the Mahdist Sufi order of the Ansar sect of Islam. It was founded in 1945.

Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi assumed his position as party leader since 1960’s until today.


Sudan’s Bashir says 2015 elections won’t be delayed

February 9, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir announced that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has no intention of delaying the upcoming 2015 elections and reiterated his call to political parties to engage in national dialogue and be part of next year’s polls.

He stressed in his address to the emergency meeting of the NCP’s Shura (consultative) council on Saturday that the government will initiate a national dialogue with all political forces without exclusion to discuss issues including peace, economic conditions, political freedoms and the Sudanese identity.

Bashir also said the government is willing to negotiate with the armed rebel groups provided that they lay down arms, affirming that the country is entering a new phase in which NCP seeks to bring the Sudanese people together.

He said the speech which he delivered recently mentioned several issues including the incomplete peace process, saying that several rebel groups continue to bear arms against the government.

The Sudanese president also said they seek to achieve responsible freedom which takes into account the national interests.

“Extreme trends have developed into the society such as regionalism and ethnicity, but we want Sudan[national identity] to be the sole identity”, he added

He further asserted that the 2015 elections will take place on time adding that the NCP seeks to agree with majority of the political forces to participate in it.

“We began our contacts with the political forces in order to pave the way for the national dialogue”, he said.

Late last month, Bashir delivered a speech in which he announced a four-point plan for reform "to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalize national identity", calling for political forces to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation items though he did not specify practical steps to do so.

The long awaited speech that was expected to unveil a major reform proposal, created a wave of disappointment among those who followed it including opposition leaders who were present.

Opposition figures who were present made statements either personally or through their parties criticizing the lack of specifics and excessive generalities that gave no real signs of concessions on the part of the ruling party.

Sudan’s opposition parties call for forming a transitional government and holding a national conference with the participation of rebel groups to discuss a peaceful solution for the conflicts in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.

The interim government would organize general elections once a political agreement on constitutional matters is reached, inaugurating a new democratic regime. But the NCP rejects this proposal saying opposition parties must simply prepare for the 2015 elections and that rebels should sign first peace accords.


Khartoum and Cairo agree to strengthen military ties, protect joint borders

February 5, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein, and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi, have agreed to strengthen military ties and enhance security cooperation across the borders besides exchanging expertise between the two armies.

Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein (L) meeting with Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi (R) in Caio, February 5, 2014
Abdel-Rahim and Al-Sissi

Hussein, who arrived in Cairo on Tuesday, is the first senior Sudanese official to visit Cairo since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last year.

The Sudanese defense minister renewed in press statements following his meeting with Sissi on Tuesday keenness of the two countries to develop relations, saying he sensed Sissi’s understanding and interest in the future of bilateral relations and implementation of joint projects.

The two ministers affirmed historical ties between the two peoples of the Nile valley.

Hussein congratulated Sissi, Egyptian people and government for the success of the referendum on the new constitution which represents the first step in Egypt’s future roadmap, stressing Sudan’s support for Egypt in order to fulfill demands of their people.

The two ministers also agreed to establish a joint force to secure borders between the two countries besides conducting joint training sessions, cooperating in the domain of armament, and exchanging military expertise.

Hussein added they also discussed regional issues relating to peace and security of the region besides bilateral ties.

“We would keep communicating with the Egyptian government and Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Karti, will visit Cairo soon”, he said

Sissi, for his part, underscored historical ties between the two countries and peoples, hoping for more integration and cooperation in the coming period in order to meet aspirations of the two peoples.

Sudan’s ambassador to Cairo, Kamal Hassan Ali, pointed the two ministers agreed to move forward to activate bilateral ties and implement joint agreements.

He disclosed that Karti will visit Cairo next week to discuss several issues including political issues, joint committees, border crossings, and regional issues.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Badr Abdel-Aati, denied that relations between Khartoum and Cairo is facing a crisis, describing ties between the two countries as eternal and blood relation.

“Sudan is a brotherly Arab country and we are proud to cooperate with it. There are many interests that tie the two countries together and the best proof for the importance of Sudan to Egypt is that it was the first foreign country to be visited by Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy”, he added

He expressed hope that cooperation agreements between the two countries be implemented, pointing that no date has been determined yet for the visit of Sudan’s foreign minister to Cairo.

Sudan’s Islamist government has appeared uncomfortable with the developments in Egypt given the common ideology they shared with Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) which brought him to power.

However, Khartoum insisted that it is neutral to the change in Egypt and that it is an internal matter.

Furthermore, Cairo was irked by Khartoum’s support of Ethiopia’s plan to build the Renaissance dam which Egypt argues will impact its Nile water share needed for its population of 90 million.

The issue of the disputed border region of Halayeb flared up with officials in Khartoum asserting that it is a Sudanese territory despite Egyptian "occupation" of it.

Sudan’s defence minister in Cairo for talks on border security

February 4, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Defence Minister Gen. Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein will hold talks on Tuesday with his Egyptian counterpart, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi on border security, gold miners and infiltration.

This is the first visit by a senior Sudanese official to Cairo since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last year.

Hussein is also subject to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2012 on 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

Egypt however, is not a signatory to the court’s treaty and theoretically has no obligation to apprehend him.

Yesterday, the head of the Egyptian al-Wafd Party Sayed al-Badawi revealed on that Cairo and Khartoum agreed to deploy joint military patrols on the borders to curb the arms smuggling.

Press reports in Khartoum stated that foreign minister Ali Karti will also visit Cairo next week for discussions on the four freedoms pact, Nile waters and joint roads.

Sudan’s Islamist government has appeared uncomfortable with the developments in Egypt given the common ideology they shared with Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) which brought him to power.

However, Khartoum insisted that it is neutral to the change in Egypt and that it is an internal matter.

Furthermore, Cairo was irked by Khartoum’s support of Ethiopia’s plan to build the Renaissance dam which Egypt argues will impact its Nile water share needed for its population of 90 million.

The issue of the disputed border region of Halayeb flared up with officials in Khartoum asserting that it is a Sudanese territory despite Egyptian "occupation" of it.


Sudan seeking "Iran-style" dialogue with international community: NCP

February 2, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has adopted a dual reform track that would address both domestic and foreign issues, a senior party official said today.

The head of the foreign relations sector at Sudan’s al-Dirdeeri, Mohamed Ahmed, acknowledged the difficulty in conducting genuine national dialogue in the absence of freedoms, saying that the NCP seeks to secure them in order to demonstrate its good intentions.

Ahmed pointed to the recent decision to lift a ban on the opposition Popular Congress Party’s (PCP) newspaper, Ray al-Shaab, describing it as positive indicator in this regard.

The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) last week lifted a two-year suspension on the daily, but stipulated 19 conditions for the resumption of its publication, all of which were swiftly rejected by the editorial board and the party.

In an interview on government-run Radio Omdurman on Friday, the NCP official said that limits of freedoms would be defined by the current laws and constitution during which time all political forces will engage in a dialogue to draft a new consensual constitution.

He stressed that his party would exert every effort possible to provide guarantees for political forces and Sudanese people, revealing that president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will soon meet with opposition leaders to discuss major national issues and develop mechanisms to implement anything decided on.

Ahmed reiterated that the NCP seeks to engage in unconditional dialogue with opposition forces, declaring that preparations are underway for a simultaneous dialogue with the international community similar to that which is taking place between Iran and the western countries.

He said the NCP has reviewed Sudan’s foreign policy during the last 24 years in order to shape a new vision different from the previous one.

“We agreed to adopt a new foreign policy which seeks to secure the Sudanese citizen’s livelihood and safety,” he added.

The statements by the NCP official suggest a move by Khartoum to mend ties with the west and particularly the United States.

Sudan’s human rights record and its hosting of Islamic militant groups since the 1989 military coup, which brought Bashir to power, has created a rift between Khartoum and the west as well as Arab and African countries.

Over the last decade, however, the Sudanese government has managed to improve relations with several of its long-time regional foes and reduce tensions with the west particularly after signing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended Africa’s longest civil war.

But the outbreak of the Darfur conflict in 2003 and the humanitarian crisis that ensued put Sudan’s quest for normalisation of ties with the international community at a standstill. The wars that erupted later in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states further frustrated Khartoum’s efforts.

The US has so far refused to heed to Khartoum’s demands to remove it from the list of states that sponsor terrorism or lift decade-long economic sanctions.

These sanctions have blocked Sudan access to US financial markets and prohibited US companies from trading or investing in the East African nation.

While the European Union (EU) has not followed Washington’s steps of imposing an economic embargo, European companies have also largely shunned Sudan so as not to jeopardise its dealings with the US.

Furthermore, rich Arab Gulf states and particularly Saudi Arabia have lately grown suspicious of Sudan’s links with Iran and as such have been reluctant to lend help to Khartoum, which has been suffering from a cash crunch after the secession of the oil-rich South.

Analysts also say that relief for Sudan’s hefty $45 billion debt is contingent upon the political backing of the west.

Khartoum appears to be eyeing a deal similar to one sealed last year between Iran and the West which enabled the former to secure a partial lifting of sanctions in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme.

But any such move may face stiff resistance from hardliners within the Islamist-backed NCP who would refuse to make concession to appease the west.

In 2012, Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Karti, revealed that he sent a note to the presidency objecting to receiving Iranian warships and warned that this could endanger Khartoum’s relations with Arab Gulf states.

But while the government took his advice initially, it ignored it subsequently and allowed Iranian navy to dock in Port Sudan.

NO FOREIGN PRESSURES

Meanwhile, the NCP political secretary and Sudan’s investment minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, said that Bashir’s recent address to the nation was not triggered by foreign or domestic pressures such as wars, pointing to the victories of the Sudanese army on several battle fronts.

Ismail, who addressed the closing ceremony of the second tourism and shopping festival in the River Nile state’s city of Shendi, called upon all political forces to engage in a national dialogue in order to draw a roadmap for Sudan’s future through drafting a permanent constitution.

He said the upcoming elections would be conducted in a favourable climate that meets aspirations of all political parties, adding that Bashir’s speech aimed to invite political force to participate in drafting the new constitution.

“Through joint dialogue, we would agree to develop a mechanism which contains a timeline for the meeting of all political forces in order to shape a roadmap for the future of the country,” he added

The long-awaited speech by Bashir, expected to unveil a major reform proposal, created a wave of disappointment among those who followed it including opposition leaders who were present.

Bashir announced a 4-point plan for reform "to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity", calling for political forces to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation items though he did not specify practical steps to do so.

Opposition figures who were present made statements either personally or through their parties criticising the lack of specifics and excessive generalities that gave no real signs of concessions on the part of the ruling party.