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Fresh clashes force Sudan army to suspend planned talks with protesters

The British ambassador to Khartoum said Sudanese security forces had fired at protesters.

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Fresh clashes force Sudan army to suspend planned talks with protesters
Sudanese protesters use barricades to block main roads as they gather to protest over killing of protestors in Khartoum, Sudan. Mahmoud Hjaj / Anadolu Agency

Sudan’s military rulers on Wednesday suspended crucial talks with protesters on installing civilian rule, insisting that negotiations will resume only after demonstrators remove roadblocks put up in parts of Khartoum, protest leaders said.

The suspension came after at least eight people were reported wounded by gunshots near a sit-in in the capital, shortly before decisive talks were to be held between the ruling military council and the protest leaders on a transitional governing body.

Army generals and protest leaders were expected to finalise the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for three years, the thorniest issue in installing civilian rule.

But a spokesman for the umbella protest group, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, said the council had suspended the talks.

“They asked us to dismantle barricades in parts of the capital,” Rashid al-Sayid told reporters, referring to roadblocks put up by demonstrators on key roads in recent days that had angered the generals.

Another protest leader, Ahmed al-Rabie also confirmed the military council’s decision.

Just hours before the talks were due to start, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, wrote on Facebook that eight people had been wounded by live fire.

A witness told reporters that gunshots had been fired near the sit-in outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum.

The British ambassador to Khartoum said Sudanese security forces had fired at protesters.

“Extremely concerned by use of live ammunition by Sudanese security forces against protesters in Khartoum today, with reports of civilian casualties,” Irfan Siddiq wrote on Twitter.

“Military council must act to stop this now. No more excuses.”

Protest leaders responded by urging people to boost the numbers at the demonstration, while avoiding clashes.

Security forces were seen chasing protesters in downtown Khartoum and removing some roadblocks, a correspondent said.

The protest movement that brought down president Omar al-Bashir after 30 years of iron-fisted rule is demanding a civilian-led transition, which the generals have steadfastly resisted since bowing to their demands and toppling the autocrat.

A breakthrough came despite the talks being marred by violence that left six people dead on Monday at the sit-in. Protest leaders said it was sparked by security forces trying to remove barricades.

Call to support demonstrations –

After Wednesday’s shootings, another key group in the protest movement urged people to join the thousands of demonstrators at the site, some of whom have camped out round-the-clock for weeks.

“We call on everybody to join the sit-in immediately and support the protesters,” the Sudanese Professionals Association, a group of doctors, engineers and teachers, said in a statement.

But it called on people “to restrain themselves, be calm and peaceful and avoid any confrontation or clash with any group whatever the circumstances.”

The latest round of talks began on Monday and the two sides had agreed on an overall civilian structure, including a three-year transitional period for the full transfer of power to a civilian administration.

They had also agreed that parliament be composed of 300 members for the transition, with 67 per cent from the alliance and the rest drawn from other political groups.

The first six months of the transition would be devoted to reaching peace accords with rebels in war zones including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The United Arab Emirates, widely seen as backing the ruling generals, hailed the agreement on a transitional period.

It “puts Sudan on the road of stability and recovery after years of Bashir and (Muslim) Brotherhood’s dictatorship,” its minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted.

Transitional civilian government –

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have offered $3 billion in aid for Sudan.

The composition of the new sovereign council has been the toughest part of the negotiations, with the two sides so far proposing different compositions of the body which is expected to take all key decisions concerning national issues.

The generals want it to be military-led, while the protesters insist on a majority civilian body.

Before the suspension, General Yasser al-Atta, one of the members of the current ruling military council, had vowed to reach a deal by early Thursday that “meets the people’s aspirations”.

The new council is expected to form a transitional civilian government, which would then prepare for the first post-Bashir election after the three-year changeover period ends.

Protest leader, Yousef downplayed the role of the proposed ruling council, insisting Sudan would have a powerful cabinet.

“All powers will be in the cabinet’s hand, which will be formed by the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” he said.

The defence and interior ministries would be headed by military figures, he said.

Tensions have soared since Monday’s shootings, which the United States blamed on security forces.

Washington has consistently called on the military council to transfer power to civilians.

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Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry

Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality

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Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.

The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain. 

The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.

READ: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.

Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.

One Twitter user asked:

“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”

A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.

Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic “Le Palais Hindou” (also known as the “Baron Empain Palace”) built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo’s northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.

READ: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.

“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.

His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.

“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.

WATCH: Egypt begins restoration of Tutankhamun’s coffin

General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”

The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.

Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.

Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.

READ: Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt

The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.

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Lifestyle News

Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb

Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.

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Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Libyan firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a car bomb attack in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on August 10, 2019. - "Two members of the UN mission, one them a foreigner, were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb" in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said. (Photo by - / AFP)

A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.

“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.

An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.

Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.

But bombings and kidnappings have continued.

A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.

A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.

Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”. 

On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.

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Culture & Tourism

Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year

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Egyptian archaeologists restore the coffin and mummy of King Tutankhamun

Egypt displayed on Sunday the gilded coffin of Tutankhamun, under restoration for the first time since the boy king’s tomb was discovered in 1922. The restoration process began in mid-July after the three-tiered coffin was transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, southern Egypt.

“We are showing you a unique historical artefact, not just for Egypt but for the world,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told a press conference at the new museum, which overlooks the famed Giza Pyramids.

The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year when Egypt’s new mega-museum is opened to the public. The restoration is expected to take around eight months.

The outer gilded wood coffin stands at 2.23 metres (7.3 feet) and is decorated with a depiction of the boy king holding the pharaonic symbols the flail and crook, according to the ministry. In the last century, the coffin has “developed cracks in its gilded layers of plaster, especially those of the lid and base”.

Famed British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the 18th dynasty king in Luxor in 1922. Sunday’s announcement comes after the controversy the Pharoah courted in early July when a 3,000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact was sold in London for $6 million.

Furious Egyptian officials condemned the sale and asked the international police agency Interpol to trace the artefact which it deems looted.

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