Sudan Military Looks to Keep Upper Hand

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Sudan's military, which took over the country after ousting President Omar al-Bashir, said it intends to keep the upper hand during the nation's transition to civilian rule. The announcement was a blow to the protesters who said Friday they will stay on the streets till all their demands are met.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has spearheaded the four months of protests that toppled al-Bashir after a 30-year rule, is demanding an immediate handover of power.

Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi, the spokesman for the military council, said late Thursday that the military will "maintain sovereign powers" while the Cabinet would be in the hands of civilians during the transitional period and until elections are held.

"This is disappointing and we did not expect to hear that," said Ahmed Rabie, a leader in the SPA, an umbrella of independent Sudanese unions. "For us, this option is completely unacceptable."

Earlier this week, the SPA resumed talks with the military council after briefly halting the negotiations and accusing the military on stalling on relinquishing its grip following al-Bashir's ouster and arrest on April 11.

The protesters say they want a transitional council with "limited military representation" to run the country, along with an interim Cabinet until a new constitution is drafted.

The military has tried to appease the protest leaders. After talks resumed, the council announced that three of its members, widely hated for their ties to al-Bashir had resigned.

The move made some in the protest movement think that negotiations with the military council may eventually bear fruit.

But Rabie said Friday that after the latest announcement, one wonders "whether the council has more than one center of power and whether all its members agree among themselves."

Since al-Bashir's ouster, the protesters have expressed fears the military will cling to power and undermine all attempts to instate a civilian government in a country that lived for decades under military dictatorship.

"If the military insist on holding to sovereign powers, we will escalate our protests," said Rabie, adding that protesters can call for national strike and civil disobedience.