By Arab News
Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it was concerned about new violence in Sudan and urged a resumption of talks between military rulers and protesters demanding a civilian government.
The Saudi statement came as Sudanese opposition representatives rejected an offer of renewed dialogue from the Transitional Military Council, and the death toll from Monday’s attack on the protesters’ sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum rose to 100 when 40 bodies were found in the Nile River.
“The government of Saudi Arabia has followed with great concern the developments in the brotherly Republic of Sudan, which resulted in a number of deaths and injuries,” Saudi Arabia said.
“The Kingdom affirms the importance of resuming the dialogue between the various parties in Sudan to fulfill the aspirations of the brotherly Sudanese people.”
The paramilitary commander accused of ordering Monday’s massacre said the law must be upheld. “We will not allow chaos … we must impose the authority of the state through law,” said Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Himedti, deputy chief of the military council and head of the Rapid Support Forces.
The general criticized makeshift barricades erected across streets by demonstrators with the aim of blocking access for the security forces, but he said the military council had launched “an urgent and transparent investigation” into Monday’s violence. “Any person who crossed boundaries has to be punished,” he said.
The military council has controlled Sudan since ousting President Omar Al-Bashir in April after months of protests. It has ditched an agreement for a three-year transition period to a civilian administration and is now pushing for an election in nine months.
On Wednesday, however, the council appeared to soften its position, and offered an unconditional resumption of talks with opposition groups. “We in the military council open our arms to negotiate with no restriction but the national interest to continue building a legitimate power that reflects the aspirations of the Sudanese revolution in every way,” said its head, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
Sudan’s alliance of protesters and opposition groups said the military could not be trusted, and rejected the offer. “Today the council invited us to dialogue and at the same time it is imposing fear on citizens in the streets,” said spokesman Madani Abbas Madani.
The atmosphere in Khartoum remained tense on Wednesday, with demonstrators blocking streets in several districts.
Most shops were shuttered on what would usually have been a bustling Eid holiday. There were minor protests outside mosques after Eid prayers but no significant clashes with security forces.
The United Nations said late Wednesday it was relocating some of its staff away from Khartoum, while Britain warned its citizens against all but essential travel to Khartoum and decided to pull non-essential staff from its embassy.