Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday rejected calls for him to step down as hundreds of citizens took to the streets in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman in a march to Parliament to deliver a note demanding that the longtime ruler resign.
Al-Bashir told a gathering of several thousand supporters in the capital Khartoum that he is ready to step down only "through election."
The developments were the latest in three weeks of anti-government demonstrations that have engulfed Sudan and left up to 40 people dead and hundreds detained.
There "are those who conspire against Sudan and seek to attack it. There are no other options but national dialogue and elections," al-Bashir said in televised comments as supporters chanted "there is no alternative to al-Bashir."
"The decision is the decision of the Sudanese people through the ballot box," added al-Bashir, who then briefly danced on the stage and waved with his cane in the Green Yard, an open area in the city.
Also at the rally, al-Bashir — in power since he led an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989 — advised opposition parties to prepare for elections in 2020. His supporters arrived in packed buses for what was the largest rally in Khartoum in support of the president since the protests erupted.
On Tuesday, during a visit to a military base in the railway city of Atbara, al-Bashir blamed violence during anti-government protests on conspirators, the state SUNA news agency quoted him as saying — conspirators who "planted traitors among us."
Atbara is a traditional bastion of dissent and one of several cities where anti-government demonstrations began Dec. 19, initially over rising prices and shortages but which quickly shifted to calls for al-Bashir to step down.