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Bashir vows 'new page' for Sudan

Sudanese president says he will tackle domestic problems, including the economy, and bring peace to Sudan's conflict-hit peripheries
File photo shows Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

By Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali

OMDURMAN, Sudan - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir vowed Tuesday at his swearing in for another five-year term to open a "new page", saying he would bring peace and mend relations with the West.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, won elections in April with more than 94 percent of the vote amid low turnout and an opposition boycott.

"Our programme for the next five years will look to the future, and we will open a new page," Bashir said after taking the oath at the national assembly in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.

He also dissolved his cabinet, state news agency SUNA reported late Tuesday, paving the way for the formation of a new government.

In his speech, Bashir said he would tackle domestic problems, including the economy, and bring peace to Sudan's conflict-hit peripheries.                                       

Dressed in traditional gleaming white robes and turban, Bashir promised to "bring about a comprehensive peace".

Rebels are battling his troops in the western Darfur region, as well as in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Last year, Bashir announced a national dialogue aimed at ending the conflicts roiling Sudan's peripheries and addressing its faltering economy.

Rebels and opposition groups were invited to take part, but the talks have so far failed to materialise.

"I reiterate the complete amnesty for bearing arms for those who sincerely want to return to participating in the dialogue," Bashir said.

The 71-year-old career soldier seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup, and Washington slapped Sudan with a trade embargo in 1997 for hosting late al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and for rights abuses.

But in Tuesday's speech, Bashir said Sudan would work to mend ties with the West.

"With an open heart, Sudan will seek to complete dialogue with Western countries to restore relations to their natural state," he said.

Before delivering his speech, a stern-looking Bashir made his vow on the Quran before MPs, military chiefs and foreign dignitaries, including Presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.

Bashir easily won the April elections, standing against 13 little-known candidates for the presidency.

The vote was boycotted by most opposition parties and by rebel groups in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur.

Ethnic insurgents launched a rebellion in the western region of Darfur in 2003, and Bashir government's unleashed the armed forces and allied militiamen.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict, the United Nations says, and more than two million have been displaced.

The ICC indicted Bashir in 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in 2010 for genocide.

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