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Page last updated at 08:58 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 09:58 UK

Sudan president asks opposition to join government

Soldiers sit outside polling station in Sudan
Many opposition parties boycotted all or part of the vote

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has asked opposition parties to join his government if he wins landmark elections currently under way.

With polling due to end on Thursday, Mr Bashir has extended an offer to other parties to join his ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Many of Sudan's opposition parties boycotted all or part of the poll, alleging fraud by Mr Bashir's party.

The elections are the first multi-party polls in the country since 1986.

The polls are part of a north-south peace deal which ended two decades of war in 2005, but have been marred by voting irregularities and alleged rigging.

They are widely expected to keep Mr Bashir, who is wanted by the UN for war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region, in power for another five years.

'Rebels included'

The BBC's James Copnall in Darfur says the exact proposal is not yet clear, and so there is no firm response from the various opposition groups, some of which boycotted the elections.

SUDAN ELECTIONS
map
First multi-party polls in 24 years
Polls to elect president and 450-member national assembly, as well as governors and legislative bodies for 25 states
Complicated process, with some in the south having to cast 12 different votes
Several opposition parties have boycotted the polls, alleging fraud
Results due next week
Southern Sudan due to hold independence referendum in January 2011

Presidential adviser Ghazi Saleheddine said the offer would apply even to those who did not participate in the vote.

It could even apply to rebel groups in Darfur, if they sign peace deals.

Many in Sudan's western region of Darfur have been unable to vote, our correspondent says.

On Thursday, there were times when there was not a single voter at one polling station in Fasher, though many had already voted and turnout was high during the first few days, he says.

And the authorities are keen to highlight there has not been a major security incident in Darfur during the elections.

But areas controlled by rebels did not vote, and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people did not register.

Just as President Bashir is certain to win the presidential vote, the former southern rebels - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) are likely to dominate the polls in the south.

But correspondents say the key issue is now whether the international community will endorse the elections as free and fair.

Polling began on Sunday and was due to last three days, but was later extended.



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