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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 17:50 GMT
Profile: Sudan's President Bashir
President Bashir on Sudanese TV in November 2003
Veteran Sudanese leader General Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Since then he has introduced elements of Sharia law which are opposed by the mainly Christian and animist rebels in the south.

His career has been marked as much by the civil war with the forces of rebel leader John Garang, as by his power struggle with Hassan al-Turabi, a prominent Sunni Muslim and erstwhile ally.

Born in January 1944 in a village in northern Sudan, General Bashir joined the Sudanese armed forces in 1960. He graduated from the Sudan Military Academy in Khartoum in 1966.

He served at the front with Egyptian armed forces during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

His other military posts included military attaché in the United Arab Emirates (1975-79), garrison commander (1979-81) and head of the armoured parachute brigade in Khartoum (1981-87).

From 1989 to 1993 he was also Sudanese minister of defence.

National salvation

On 30 June 1989 he led fellow officers in a mutiny against Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. General Bashir said in a televised communique that the coup was "to save the country from rotten political parties".

The coup was also aimed at preventing the signing of a peace treaty with John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). General Bashir opposed the plan, which would have allowed secular law, instead of Sharia, in the south.

Gen Bashir proclaimed himself chairman of a 15-member Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). He signed a "constitutional decree" dismissing the government and other state bodies.

Further decrees dissolved political parties and trade unions, as well as imposing a state of emergency and a ban on demonstrations against the "revolution of national salvation".

Fresh talks with the rebel SPLM began in Nairobi on 1 December 1989. They collapsed five days later over the imposition of Sharia and the emergency laws.

In April 1990, General Bashir, influenced by the radical Islam of Hassan al-Turabi, reorganised the government in an bid to boost the role of Islamists.

After an alleged coup attempt later that month, 31 army and police officers were executed. Journalists and diplomats believed government claims of a coup were a pretext for removing suspect officers.

In March 1991 the government passed the Criminal Act, introducing Sharia in all provinces but the south.

Presidency

The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) dissolved itself in October 1993, announcing a return to civilian rule and appointing Gen Bashir as president.

Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha with John Garang at peace talks in Kenya in September 2003
Sudan's Vice-President Taha makes peace with John Garang

Non-party elections were held in March 1996 for a president and a new National Assembly. General Bashir was elected president with 75.7% of votes

The registration of legalised political parties began in January 1999. President Bashir and Mr Turabi set up the National Congress Party.

But, as parliament speaker, Mr Turabi introduced a bill in November 1999 to reduce the president's powers, prompting General Bashir to dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency.

Mr Turabi was suspended as National Congress Party chairman, after urging a boycott of the president's re-election campaign. General Bashir was re-elected president in December 2000, receiving 86.5% of the vote.

In February 2001 President Bashir arrested Mr Turabi and charged him with attempting to overthrow the government, after Mr Turabi's new Popular National Congress (PNC) party signed an agreement with the rebel SPLM.

President Bashir then took steps to improve relations with Egypt, Uganda, Kenya and Eritrea, hitherto strained over Sudan's radical policies.

Mr Turabi was released in October 2003, as the latest round of peace talks aimed at ending the civil war in the south got under way in Kenya.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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