Sudan's military leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan on Saturday dismissed Western threats of sanctions and said meetings between Sudanese and Israeli officials were part of security cooperation rather than political in nature.
Burhan led a military coup on October 25 that ended a partnership between the army and civilian parties which was meant to lead to democratic elections, leading to months of protests as well as Western condemnation.
U.S. officials have said they are looking into options to respond to the killing of at least 79 protesters, according to a toll by medics, and to moves to impede civilian-led government.
First interview since coup
In his first interview on state television since the coup, Burhan said Washington was receiving inaccurate information.
"Sanctions and the threat of them are not useful," he said.
Burhan said he took personal responsibility for investigations of protester deaths and that five or six were ongoing. But he added that there were suspicions of involvement by "outside groups," without elaborating.
The armed forces were committed to handing over power to an elected government or to an arrangement decided through "national consensus," he said, repeating a commitment to holding elections in mid-2023.
The military had met resistance committees that are leading the protest movement, and they agreed on many points, he said. In statements, resistance committees have rejected dialog with the military.
Prior to the coup, the military had led steps to reach an agreement in late 2020 to normalize relations with Israel, a move also made by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
Meetings with Israelis
Burhan said meetings between Israeli and Sudanese officials since the coup had not been high-level and only involved the security and intelligence apparatus.
"This is a legitimate matter for these agencies, and it is no secret that the information shared enabled us to catch several terrorist organizations located inside Sudan," he said.
Protesters have accused the military of bringing back loyalists of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. This week, two prominent politicians involved in a committee to dismantle Bashir's network were arrested.
In response, Burhan said officials appointed since the takeover were already part of civil service, and that the committee had diverged from its goals though he was not involved in the arrests.