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By AFP
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday pledged to bolster rural development, as he seeks to face down anti-government demonstrations that have rocked cities and villages.

The veteran leader has been on a charm offensive with rallies across the country in a bid to head off weeks of protests seen as the biggest threat to his 30-year rule.

Addressing hundreds of villagers in North Kordofan State at a televised event he promised to bring clean drinking water to rural areas “across Sudan” and open a new hospital in the region.

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The speech came after he inaugurated a new 340km highway linking North Kordofan to Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum.

“Building such a road in present economic conditions is not an easy thing to achieve,” said President Bashir, after being escorted to the stage by dozens of men on camels.

“Along this road we will bring electricity to boost the region’s growth.”

Demonstrations erupted in Sudan in December after a government decision to triple the price of bread unleashed frustrations at years of deteriorating living conditions and growing hardship.

Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence, while rights group Human Rights Watch says at least 51 have been killed.

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