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KHARTOUM/CAIRO: Sudanese military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan on Saturday rejected Western threats of sanctions and said meetings between Sudanese and Israeli officials were for security cooperation rather than political in nature .
Burhan led a military coup on October 25 that ended a partnership between the military and civilian parties that was to lead to democratic elections, leading to months of protests as well as Western condemnation.
US officials said they were exploring options to respond to the killing of at least 79 protesters, according to a medical report, and to prevent a civilian-led government.
Speaking in an interview with Sudanese state television aired on Saturday evening, Burhan said it was legitimate for Sudanese security and intelligence agencies to have ties and exchange visits with Israel.
He said the intelligence-sharing has enabled Sudan to dismantle and arrest suspected militant groups in Sudan who “could have undermined the security of Sudan and the region”.
He insisted that his country’s relations with Israel are not political in nature, saying that no senior Sudanese official has yet paid a visit to Israel. He did not specify.
Sudanese and Israeli officials have exchanged unannounced visits in recent weeks. More recently, a Sudanese security delegation visited Tel Aviv last week, following a visit by Israeli officials, including Mossad intelligence officers, to Khartoum in January.
Burhan also said Washington was receiving inaccurate information.
“Sanctions and the threat of them are not helpful,” he said.
Burhan said he took personal responsibility for investigations into protester deaths and that five or six were ongoing. But he added that there were suspicions of involvement by “outside groups”, without giving further details.
The armed forces are committed to handing over power to an elected government or an arrangement decided by “national consensus”, he said, reiterating his commitment to hold elections in mid-2023.
The military met with resistance committees leading the protest movement, and they agreed on many points, he said. In statements, the resistance committees rejected dialogue with the military.
Before the coup, the military had taken steps to reach an agreement by the end of 2020 to normalize relations with Israel, a decision also taken by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
Burhan said meetings between Israeli and Sudanese officials since the coup had not been high-level and had only involved the security and intelligence apparatus.
“It is a legitimate question for these agencies, and it is no secret that the information shared allowed us to catch several terrorist organizations located inside Sudan,” he said.
Protesters have accused the army of bringing back followers of ousted President Omar Al-Bashir. This week, two prominent politicians involved in a committee to dismantle Bashir’s network were arrested.
In response, Burhan said officials appointed since the takeover were already part of the civil service and that the committee had strayed from its objectives despite not being implicated in the arrests.
The UN, US and other Western governments have pressured the military to end its crackdown on protesters and restore a civilian-led government to complete the country’s transition. Members of Congress have also called for sanctions against military leaders in Sudan.
US Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and the newly appointed US special envoy for the Horn of Africa visited Sudan last month and said they made it clear to the generals that “the United States” would consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for the failure to move forward. ”
In the interview, Buran rebuffed the threats of punitive measures, saying sanctions and threats of sanctions would not help.
(With Reuters and AP)

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