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Western powers rebuke Sudan over 'return to military rule'

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Khartoum (AFP)

Western powers including the US rebuked Sudan on Tuesday over its "return to military rule", after President Omar al-Bashir imposed a state of emergency and appointed army officers to top government posts.

Bashir declared a year-long nationwide emergency on Friday after a deadly crackdown failed to suppress weeks of protests against his rule.

He also dissolved the federal and provincial governments and appointed 16 army officers and two officers from the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service as governors for the country's 18 provinces.

The president went further still, banning all unauthorised rallies and giving sweeping powers to security forces to raid buildings and search people.

The United States, Britain, Norway and Canada expressed concern on Tuesday over his directives.

"Allowing security forces to act with impunity will further erode human rights, governance and effective economic management" in Sudan, the four countries said in a joint statement issued by their Khartoum embassies.

"The return to military rule does not create a conducive environment for a renewed political dialogue or credible elections."

The four nations also called on Khartoum to release all detainees held during the ongoing protests.

"We also note continuing reports of unacceptable use of live fire, beating of protesters and mistreatment of detainees," said the statement.

Sudanese officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations began on December 19, although Human Rights Watch puts the figure at at least 51.

The four countries "emphasise that the government of Sudan's response to these protests and the actions of the military-led government will determine our countries' future engagement" with Khartoum.

Demonstrations in Sudan were initially sparked by a government decision to triple the price of bread, although swiftly escalated into rallies against the president.

Bashir has also taken economic measures in a bid to placate protesters angry at spiralling inflation and shortages in basic goods.

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