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US envoy expresses confidence over credibility of Sudan elections

April 3, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration today gave his blessings to the work of the National Election Commission (NEC) saying that he is satisfied that they can be held in a credible manner.

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U.S. envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration (R), smiles at reporters after his meeting with vice secretary general of the national elections commission Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah (L) in Khartoum, April 3, 2010 (Reuters)

"They [NEC] have given me confidence that the elections will start on time and they would be as free and as fair as possible," Gration told reporters.

"These people have gone to great lengths to ensure that the people of Sudan will have access to polling places and that the procedures and processes will ensure transparency. This has been a difficult challenge but I believe they have stepped up and met the challenge " he added.

Gration’s remarks come contrary to assertions made by the Umma Party led by Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi during their meetings with him this week.

Sara Nugd-Alla, a member of the Umma Party political bureau told reporters yesterday that Gration promised Al-Mahdi that that he would press the ruling National Congress party (NCP) to reschedule the elections which has been the main demand for opposition parties.

Statements from the US State department this week has consistently appeared to favor conducting elections as scheduled.

The NEC today affirmed its position on holding the elections as planned.

"The National Elections Commission is working to have the elections on the dates we specified on April 11, 12, 13," deputy head of the NEC, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, told reporters after with Gration.

"The NEC confirmed to Gration that it had completed all the necessary procedures to have the elections on the specified dates," he added.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has strongly rejected any delay to the polls threatening Southerners to push back the 2011 referendum if the join the calls for postponement.

The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and NCP candidate on Saturday again ruled out a delay and accused the opposition of seeking to overthrow the ruling party, in a campaign speech in the northern town of Kassala.

"There will be no delay and no cancellation," he said in the speech broadcast by Sudanese television.

Bashir wants to win the elections to legitimize his rule, in defiance of an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Darfur, after a brutal counter-insurgency campaign begun in 2003.

The Reform and Renewal Party (URRP) chief Mubarak Al-Fadil told the Dubai based Al-Arabiya TV slammed Gration’s saying he wants to help Bashir and the NCP maintain power in order to prevent hard-line Islamic extremist from taking over and offering a safe haven for terrorists.

Sudan, placed on the terrorism list in 1993, had in recent years improved its counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States particularly in targeting Al-Qaeda figures in the horn of Africa