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Sudan's Bashir will not stand for reelection: party

Part of package of reforms to democratize Sudan

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will not seek re-election, as part of a package of reforms to democratize the country, a senior ruling party official said on Monday.

"(Bashir) announced that he will not enter the coming elections to compete for the presidency," Rabie Abdelati, a senior National Congress Party official told Reuters.

According to Sudan's current constitution, the next presidential elections are due in four years time.

Bashir, 67, who came to power in a bloodless military coup in 1989, is the only head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide in the war-torn region of Darfur, charges he denies.

He won a decisive victory in 2010 elections, which many opposition parties boycotted, crying fraud.

Last week Bashir hinted to youth members of his party that he would retire if the NCP adopted a retirement age of 60 for political posts.

The opposition belittled the move, saying the NCP was trying to head off mass protests and feared contagion from popular uprisings which have ousted the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents.

Abdelati said Bashir had also offered to step down as head of the NCP, a move he said was part of a wider strategy to democratise the country.

Sudanese security forces violently dispersed dozens of small protests throughout northern Sudan this year, as an economic crisis took hold and university students took inspiration from pro-democracy uprisings which ousted two regional strongmen including neighboring Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

Protests throughout the Middle East have threatened long- term rulers and opened the way to far-reaching political reforms. But young demonstrators have failed to garner wider support in Sudan and the movement has fizzled with many of its leaders still detained.

A senior opposition Communist Party official belittled the proposed reforms, saying Khartoum was running scared watching popular protests throughout the Middle East.

Sudan's ruling party has made conciliatory offers since the uprisings, including inviting the opposition for talks to form a national government.