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Sudan's Bashir names two new vice presidentsPublish Date: Dec 08, 2013
Sudan's Bashir names two new vice presidents
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President Bashir (L) announced on Saturday that his long-time first vice president Ali Osman Taha had resigned. PHOTO/AFP

KHARTOUM - Sudan's ruling party on Sunday named as senior vice president a man once dubbed a "sinister" defender of the Islamist revolution which brought President Omar al-Bashir to power.

Bakri Hassan Saleh, a former interior and defence minister, was named first vice-president as Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman became second vice-president, senior party official Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid told AFP.

"Yes, confirmed," Ebaid said of the appointments at the start of a government reshuffle.

Saleh was presidential affairs minister in the cabinet which Bashir dismissed last week after the most serious split in years within his ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Abdel Rahman had been the NCP's political secretary.

Saleh was a leader of the 1989 Islamist-backed coup which brought Bashir to power, Robert O. Collins wrote in "A History of Modern Sudan".

He called Saleh "an efficient and sinister defender of the revolution" who was entrusted with rebuilding the country's intelligence apparatus.

Ebaid said final composition of the new cabinet would be declared within 24 hours, including ministers from other political parties.

Bashir had announced on Saturday that his long-time first vice president Ali Osman Taha, a key figure behind the coup, had resigned to pave the way for a new government.

"Ali Osman will voluntarily step down", as he did in 2005 following the signing of a peace agreement that ended 22 years of civil war, Bashir was quoted by the official SUNA news agency as saying.

Taha "is the spearhead and the leader of change in the formation of a new cabinet," Bashir said without elaborating.

The president hinted in mid-November that a wide-ranging government shakeup was imminent, after his party moved to expel a group of dissidents led by his ex-adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani.

Critics of Bashir's regime have become increasingly vocal since the government slashed fuel subsidies in September, leading to the worst urban unrest of his rule.

Security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 demonstrators, Amnesty International said, but the government has given a toll of fewer than half that.

Analysts said the spontaneous protests pointed to an urgent need for change by the Arab-dominated regime grappling with ethnic rebellions in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, dissension within its own ranks, economic crisis and international isolation.

Bashir has since talked of "reform", and repeated a call for a dialogue with all political parties, including armed rebels.

Taha led the National Islamic Front party which backed the coup that installed Bashir.

He later became first vice-president but stepped aside for former rebel leader John Garang in July 2005, under the terms of the peace deal which eventually led to South Sudan's independence two years ago.

After Garang's death in a helicopter crash about a month later Taha continued as second vice-president, but then reassumed the top deputy's post.

Analysts last year said Taha was a possible successor to Bashir should he step down.

But leading Islamist Hassan al-Turabi, who initially supported Bashir and then broke away to form an opposition party, spoke of rivalry between the president and Taha.

Bashir on Saturday said that "there are no differences or conflicts concerning the formation of the new government," the official news agency SUNA reported.


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