Islamist to lead Sudanese parliament

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The Independent Online
Khartoum - Hassan Turabi, the Islamic leader long considered the power behind Sudan's government, was unanimously chosen yesterday as the speaker of the newly elected parliament.

Turabi won a seat in the National Assembly during the presidential and parliamentary elections, held between 6 and 17 March, the country's first such polls since 1986. Before that, he held no official position in the government, despite guiding Sudan's efforts to create an Islamic society.

Sudan has poor relations with most of its neighbours, including Egypt, which accuses Mr Turabi of being the mastermind behind Sudan's attempts to export radical Islam. The United Nations, meanwhile, is threatening sanctions over Sudan's failure to turn over three men wanted for the assassination attempt on the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, last June.

But Mr Turabi struck a conciliatory tone yesterday. Parliament's aim, he said, was a "reconciliation among all Sudanese people's forces and a rehabilitation of foreign relations that will seek dialogue, peace and co-operation with the world".

Dressed in white Sudanese robe and head-dress, he was nominated by the former speaker of the transitional National Assembly, which was dissolved after the elections. His nomination was unopposed by the 400 members of parliament.

All but one of the candidates chosen for parliament were government supporters. Lt Gen Omar el-Bashir, who led the 1989 coup that brought the Islamic fundamentalist government to power, was elected president in a vote boycotted by opposition groups.

He was sworn in yesterday and promised that his goal would be to end Sudan's 13-year civil war.