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Leading Sudan dissident calls for rebel amnestyPublish Date: Jan 29, 2014
Leading Sudan dissident calls for rebel amnesty
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Sudans President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech on January 27, 2014 in which he appealed for a political and economic renaissance in his country ravaged by war, poverty and political turmoil, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum (AFP/File, Ebrahim Hamid)
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Sudanese armed rebels must be given amnesty and political prisoners should be freed, a leading dissident expelled by Sudan's ruling party says.

Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, a former adviser to President Omar al-Bashir, made the demand late Tuesday after Bashir appealed for a political and economic "renaissance" in a country ravaged by government-rebel clashes, poverty and political turmoil.

"The wars have to stop, and the armed groups must be given amnesty," Atabani told reporters late Tuesday.

"All the political detainees, political prisoners, have to be freed."

Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) billed his Monday speech as a major event, after urgent calls for reform in his 25-year-old regime.

But Atabani said it "did not present solutions or any initiative."

Bashir repeated invitations he has issued over the past year for a broad political dialogue, including with the country's ethnic insurgents fighting in Darfur, the Kordofan region and Blue Nile state.

The uprisings have been fuelled by complaints of economic and political neglect by the Arab-dominated regime.

Bashir did not unveil detailed initiatives but said the renaissance must address four areas: peace, political freedom, poverty reduction and national identity.

Critics of the regime have become increasingly vocal since the government slashed fuel subsidies in September, sparking a jump in prices and the worst urban unrest of Bashir's rule. Dozens of people were killed.

The NCP moved to expel Atabani and two other dissidents who signed a memorandum which said the government's response to the protests betrayed its Islamic foundations.

Atabani then set up a new "Reform" party in December, marking the most serious defection in years from the NCP.

AFP

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