Sudanese protesters call for strike amid divisions with army

Sudanese protest leaders say there is "no alternative" to calling a general strike as dispute with military officials over the make-up of a transitional body continues.

KHARTOUM - Sudan's protest leaders have set a date for next week's two-day general strike in a bid to press the ruling military council to transfer power to a civilian-led authority.

The Sudanese Professionals' Association, which spearheaded protests that led the army to oust President Omar al-Bashir last month, called for the nationwide strike to begin Tuesday.

A statement released Saturday asked people to go to work but abstain from any activity, then head to various marches and sit-ins across the country. The days of protest are set to culminate in mass rallies on Thursday.

Despite ending al-Bashir's 30-year reign, protesters have remained in the streets. They insist on "limited military representation" in a sovereign council, while the military wants to lead the body during an agreed-upon three-year transition.

"There is no longer any alternative to using the weapon of a general strike," the Alliance for Freedom and Change said in a statement Friday.

It said the strike, affecting "public and private institutions and companies", would be accompanied by civil disobedience and was "an act of peaceful resistance with which we have been forced to proceed".

Talks between the protest leaders and generals have been suspended since Monday after the disagreement over who should lead the new authority -- a civilian or an officer.

The generals who seized power after Bashir was toppled have so far resisted calls from the demonstrators to step down.

Several rounds of talks have so far failed to finalise the makeup of the new ruling body, with both the generals and protest leaders insisting on their demands.

Western nations like the United States, Britain and Norway have consistently called on the generals to hand over power to a civilian administration, while the ruling army council has received support from regional allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Days after Bashir was ousted, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged to inject $500 million into Sudan's central bank and $2.5 billion to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products. They said the move was aimed at shoring up the Sudanese pound.

In recent years Sudan has been hit by an acute lack of dollars, a key factor behind the nationwide protests that first erupted in December and led to the toppling of Bashir.

But the Western troika, which has previously been involved in mediation in Sudanese conflicts, reiterated this week that the two sides reach an agreement urgently.

"Any outcome that does not result in the formation of a government that is civilian-led, placing primary authority for governing with civilians, will not respond to the clearly expressed will of the Sudanese people for a transition to civilian rule," the United States, Britain and Norwary said in a joint statement.

"This will complicate international engagement, and make it harder for our countries to work with the new authorities and support Sudan's economic development."