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Sudan opposition calls for transitional government

Sudan's Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi speaks during a news conference in Khartoum May 13, 2008, after his release on Tuesday. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdalla

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The opposition party of influential Sudanese politician Hassan al-Turabi has called for a transitional government to ensure that presidential and parliamentary elections due in February 2010 are free and fair.

The Popular Congress made the call at a news conference on Saturday to launch its platform for the elections.

The elections, expected to be the freest in almost 25 years in Sudan, are the centrepiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended over two decades of north-south civil war.

The party said that it had not decided whether to contest the elections and that it would now discuss its platform with other political parties. Speaking to journalists later, Turabi, 77, hinted he may be too old to run for the presidency.

“It is better always to present new people, new generations for new times. If you are a very wise people, sit back and write books that guide us, that inspire us, or lecture to us... but don’t come yourself (as the candidate). You waste a lot of your energy. I don’t have that much energy,” Turabi said.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under pressure over the conflict in Darfur, where international experts say 200,000 people have died in almost six years of ethnic and politically driven fighting.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) last month issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on accusations of war crimes in Darfur, where Khartoum says 10,000 people have died.

An Islamist intellectual who helped bring Bashir to power but later fell out with him, Turabi was jailed in January after calling on Bashir to hand himself over to the ICC. He was released last month.

Turabi was once close to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the government alleges he is connected to the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the main rebel groups in Darfur.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp, Editing by Jonathan Wright; Khartoum bureau