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The African Union says it has suspended Sudan from all activities until a civilian-led government is formed.

The AU Peace and Security Council announced the suspension Thursday as protest leaders in Sudan rejected an offer from the ruling military council to negotiate the country's political future.

The protest leaders said the call for talks is insincere following this week's deadly crackdown on demonstrators in Khartoum, which witnesses blamed on the militia known as the Rapid Support Forces.

Doctors allied with the opposition said the death toll from the crackdown had risen to 108 as of Wednesday. The Sudanese Health Ministry issued a statement that said the number is "no more than 46."

UN ambassadors weigh in

At the United Nations, the ambassador from South Africa, Jerry Matjila, told reporters that South Africa aligned with the AU Peace and Security Council to suspend Sudan. He said South Africa is calling on parties to return to negotiations and agree on the transfer of power of civilian rule as soon as possible.

"Because of this grave situation, this unfortunate development where over 100 people were killed, AUPSC was forced by circumstances to take this position," he said. "The Security Council may have time to reflect... on what we do going forward."

British deputy ambassador Jonathan Allen added, "The ongoing reports of intimidation and violence in Khartoum are outrageous and unacceptable and need to stop."

And Russian deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said Russia takes note of the decision and will see what it can do to start talks on Sunday and end this "period of uncertainty."

SPA calls for negotiations

Earlier, SPA spokesman Mohammed Yousef al-Mustafa said the call for negotiations by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan "is not serious." He said "those under him have killed the Sudanese and are still doing it."

The SPA, which is part of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), an alliance representing the protesters, will instead continue its pro-democracy campaign to force the military to hand over power to a civilian authority, al-Mustafa said.

Burhan, head of the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), said Wednesday military leaders were ready to resume talks with protest leaders with "no restrictions."

He also said those responsible for the deadly breakup of the eight-week-old sit in outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum would be held accountable.

His remarks Wednesday contrasted sharply with those he made in a televised address Tuesday, when he said the council was halting negotiations and was canceling its previous agreement to form an interim government with the FFC.

Burhan also said a new government would immediately be formed and would rule until elections are held within the next nine months.

The SPA quickly rejected that plan.

Bodies pulled from river

The Sudan Doctors' Committee raised its count of those killed this week after at least 40 bodies were pulled Tuesday from the Nile River in Khartoum. The committee said the Rapid Support Forces took the bodies to an unknown location.

The committee also said more than 500 protesters have been wounded in the crackdown.

Protest groups and opposition parties have been demanding that the TMC, which took power after the army overthrew longtime president Omar al-Bashir on April 11, hand power to a civilian-led authority.

Talks on the proposed interim government broke down over which side would have ultimate decision-making authority.

Violence erupted in Sudan last December, when anger over rising bread prices and cash shortages evolved into sustained protests against al-Bashir before he was ousted after three decades in power.

Source: Voice of America

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