The head of Sudan's Sovereign Council, Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan, said he would not be running in the future elections for a civilian-led government but offered no timeline on when polls might happen for him to step down.
Burhan told the Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's high-level meeting that once an elected government is in place, the armed forces would be another institution of that government rather than retain a higher status.
The interview marked nearly one year after the military coup, which was seen as a takeover of Sudan's transition to democracy.
Asked if he would consider running in future elections, Burhan replied: "I don't think so." When pressed further, he said: "I do not have a desire to put myself forward (as a candidate), nor do I want to continue in this work."
Sudan has been mired in political turmoil for more than three years, and the economy has been shaken sharply, as inflation is expected to reach 245 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Since the coup last October, pro-democracy protesters have marched through the streets demanding the generals hand over power to civilians.
They condemned Burhan's seizure of power after the army dissolved the transitional government headed by Abdalla Hamdok and the Sovereign Council, a power-sharing body of military officers and civilians ruling Sudan since late 2019.
Security forces opened fire on the protesters, killing dozens and arresting hundreds. While no police or security forces have been convicted of the deaths, Burhan said investigations are underway.
"No one killed protesters in the way that's being depicted," he said. "Protesters clashed with police, and the police dealt with them according to the law to protect public property."
During the interview, Burhan stopped short of giving a date for when elections will be held, despite previously saying a vote could be held in July 2023.
He said the impasse lies with political groups that must agree on a vote date. He insisted the military had no role in that discussion.
"We are talking about political participation and widening that participation, whether that is Hamdok or someone else, this person will not succeed without a wide base to rule Sudan," Burhan said.
"The only authority to rule is through elections, with no one imposing their will on another."
He also downplayed the impact of tensions in his transitional government, denying the existence of any differences with the deputy head of the ruling military council, Lieutenant-General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known by his nickname Hemedti.
Local media over the past weeks reported disputes between the two generals. Hemedti has also admitted the failure of the October military takeover.
Amid political turmoil, millions of Sudanese citizens suffer from high prices and a significant national currency devaluation against the dollar.
The ruling military commander blamed countries and institutions he did not name for being behind Sudan's deteriorating economic situation.
Sudan is suffering from a worsening food crisis caused by "a cocktail of factors," according to the country's World Food Program representative, Eddie Rowe.
Sudan experienced two years of poor harvests, a brutal summer with devastating floods, and is struggling for vital grain imports from Eastern Europe following the war in Ukraine.
In response to the military's coup, several major UN donors withdrew funding from the country. To help alleviate the crisis in Sudan, Rowe called for lasting peace, a reliable government, and more international aid and support.
After the coup, the Biden administration suspended $700 million in financial aid earmarked to support Sudan's transition to an entirely civilian government.
The US State Department said that the entire aid package, which may have included other aid over $700 million, has been frozen pending a review of developments in Khartoum.
Burhan commented that there are those "who promised to provide assistance to Sudan, but they did not honor their promises," Burhan said.
"There was much support from those external actors, but regretfully this assistance ceased for political purposes."