June 6, 2015 / 8:05 PM / 2 years ago

Sudan's Bashir changes foreign, defense, oil ministers: state TV

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced a new government with changes to the defense, foreign affairs and oil portfolios, state television said on Saturday, days after the start of his new presidential term.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir speaks to the crowd after a swearing-in ceremony at green square in Khartoum, June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Mohamed Zayed takes over the oil ministry, while Ibrahim Ghandour becomes Sudan’s top diplomat. Lieutenant-General Mostafa Osman Abeed was appointed acting defense minister, state television said.

The reshuffle could mark a shift for Sudan, which has long labored under a raft of U.N. and bilateral sanctions, including from the United States.

Bashir, 71, said this week his country was open to dialogue with Western nations, an unusually conciliatory message from a leader facing charges at the International Criminal Court that he masterminded genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region. He denies those charges.

Opposition figures have said Bashir’s continued rule has exacerbated Sudan’s isolation from global financial and political institutions.

Bashir has kept a strong power base in the army and remains popular among many segments of the population He won 94 percent of the vote in a national election in April, the first since Sudan saw its south secede in 2011, but it was boycotted by most of the opposition. His ruling National Congress Party won 323 of 426 parliamentary seats.

Saturday’s reshuffle also saw most of the state governors change, but it kept in place the first vice president and the vice president.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Trevelyan

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