[dehai-news] (Reuters): Sudan plays down reports of Bashir arrest decision

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Feb 12 2009 - 07:22:48 EST

Sudan plays down reports of Bashir arrest decision

Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:42am GMT

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Sudan sought to play down reports International
Criminal Court judges have decided to issue an arrest warrant for its
president, saying it was pressing ahead with diplomatic efforts to postpone
the move.

United Nations diplomats and officials told Reuters late on Wednesday the
global court's judges had decided to indict Sudan's president for war crimes
in Darfur.

Sudan's foreign ministry said it had not received any notification from the
Hague-based court which has not so far publicly announced a decision or
given details of what charges President Omar Hassan al-Bashir might face.

"We must wait for the announcement from the court," said Ali al-Sadig,
spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The African Union and Arab League delegations are still working. China and
Russia are also working with us. It is too early to talk about the results
of this pressure .... We will react when the decision comes."

China, the African Union and the Arab League have all warned an indictment
of Bashir could destabilise the region, worsen the conflict in Darfur and
threaten a troubled peace deal between north Sudan and the semi-autonomous

Their diplomats have been trying to build support for a one-year
postponement of the court's action, which is within the power of the United
Nations' Security Council.

"Our consistent stance has been that we hope the International Criminal
Court's actions are helpful for Sudan's stability and the appropriate
resolution of the Darfur problem," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman
Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing.

There was no sign of a reaction to the reports of an arrest warrant on the
streets of Khartoum on Thursday and the story did not appear in local media.

Last year, chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo asked the court's judges
to indict Bashir for orchestrating what he described as a campaign of
genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region that killed 35,000 people in 2003
and at least 100,000 more through starvation and disease.

Khartoum rejects the term genocide and says 10,000 people died in the

U.N. officials in New York said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had not been
notified by the ICC of its decision, although they were expecting news
before the end of the month.

The U.N. has a mission in Sudan and a separate UNAMID peacekeeping force in
Darfur, jointly run by the African Union.

UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni said the force had also not been informed.

"We have a specific, separate mandate to keep the peace in Darfur. We have
nothing to do with the ICC," he said.

Some analysts have warned Western embassies will be left in a diplomatic
vacuum if an arrest warrant is issued, unsure how to handle relations with a
president who is also a wanted man.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing) (Reporting by Andrew
Heavens; Editing by Sophie Hares)

C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved


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