June 21, 2012 / 2:33 PM / in 5 years

Sudan police disperse austerity protests

* Protests have been led mainly by students

* Sudan facing high inflation, weakening currency

* Austerity plans include fuel subsidy cuts

KHARTOUM, June 21 (Reuters) - Sudanese police used batons to break up protesters blocking a main road in central Khartoum in the latest demonstrations against tough austerity measures on Thursday.

Student groups, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, have led rallies in the Sudanese capital against planned government spending cuts and sought to galvanise anger over price rises into a wider movement to topple military ruler Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 bloodless coup.

The Arab-African nation has faced soaring food prices and a weakening currency since South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it about three-quarters of the country’s economically vital oil output..

On the fifth day of protests on Thursday, about 150 students from a financial college halted traffic in the city centre and threw rocks at police while chanting “No, no to inflation” and “The people want to overthrow the regime,” witnesses said.

Security forces broke up the protests with batons, they added. The police were not immediately available for comment.

Late on Wednesday, police used batons to disperse members of the opposition Umma party as they left their headquarters, a witness said.

Sudan’s main opposition parties have called for protests against the austerity measures but have not managed to bring large numbers of people on to the streets.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Sudan two weeks ago to launch emergency measures to overcome what it called “daunting” challenges.

The finance minister set out the austerity plans in detail on Wednesday. They include raising some taxes and shrinking the government as well as sensitive cuts in fuel subsidies.

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