I will not stand again, says Sudan's Bashir

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The Independent Online

President Omar al-Bashir, the iron-fisted leader who has ruled Sudan for 22 years, will not stand for re-election, Rabie Abdul Ati, his spokesman, has told Agence-France Presse. Mr Ati denied that the decision was connected with the unrest in the region. "He is not under pressure," he said.

The decision will have little immediate effect as Mr Bashir won a new five-year term in elections last April, in a process that was widely seen as flawed. But it may prevent student protests, currently limited but spirited, from turning into a wider referendum on Mr Bashir's rule.

Mr Bashir seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989. Although his often colourful appearances at home still attract huge cheering crowds, he is reviled by rights groups and the West for his role in the Darfur conflict, and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide.

Meanwhile, in northern Morocco, five charred bodies were found in a bank set ablaze during protests there. Nearly 130 people, 115 of those from the security forces, were injured throughout Morocco on Sunday.

The continued unrest in Bahrain prompted the ruling Khalifa family to cancel the country's Formula One Grand Prix, which was to open the season on 13 March.

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