Bashir pledges to quit in 2020 if re-elected

The Sudanese president also says he will step down if he is beaten at April polls

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Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, has said that he would quit in 2020 if he is re-elected in April and that he would step down if he is defeated at the polls.

The 71-year-old president who has been in power for 25 years made the announcement in an interview with published by France's Le Monde newspaper on Thursday.

Bashir had previously signaled he would step down this year, but his National Congress Party chose him as its candidate in October, all but assuring his success against a fractured and weakened opposition.

“According to the interim constitution adopted in 2005... the head of state can serve two terms," he told the French daily. "So for me, it will be the last mandate and, if elected, I will leave power in 2020."”

Opposition figures have said the continued rule of Bashir -- facing an ICC arrest warrant that has prevented him travelling to many countries -- has exacerbated Sudan's isolation from global financial and political institutions.

But he has remained defiant in the face of domestic and international opponents, kept a strong power base in the army and remained popular among many parts of the population.

"I will leave but by the ballot box," Bashir told a rally in Wad Madani southeast of Khartoum, where he was launching his campaign for the presidential election.

Sudan's mainstream opposition is boycotting the election.

"The Sudanese people hold power and choose who governs and represents them through the ballot box," he told the cheering crowd on the outskirts of Wad Madani, in Jazira state, a farming area.

"Since April 1, 2013, there are no political prisoners in Sudan," he said. Many opposition groups boycotted the dialogue sessions.

Bashir said Western powers had labelled him a dictator because they were disturbed by his stance against interventions in Muslim countries.

"I'm used to it. I'm considered a dictator, a war criminal and genocidal, but how many dictators allow 120 political parties to exist?"

The Hague-based court has indicted Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during his suppression of the Darfur revolt.

But the court's prosecutor in December shelved further investigations into crimes committed during the conflict, citing a lack in efforts to getting Bashir to appear. Khartoum dismisses the ICC charges and refuses to deal with the court.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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