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AU will not bar Sudan's Bashir from summit: minister


COTONOU, Benin (AFP) - The African Union has "no reason" to bar Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from the pan-African grouping's summit in Malawi in July, a minister said on Monday.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

"The chairman of the African Union has no reason not to invite President Omar al-Bashir," Benin's Foreign Minister Nassirou Arifari Bako told journalists.

Malawi's new President Joyce Banda said earlier this month that she wanted Sudan's leader to stay away from the summit to avoid straining ties with key donors for her impoverished country.

"Malawi is already going through unprecedented economic problems and it would not be prudent enough to take a risk by allowing one person to come and attend the summit against much resistance from our cooperating partners and donors," she told a news conference.

Bako, speaking on the margins of a meeting to discuss the delicate issue of election of a new AU Commission chairman, said African heads of state had decided in 2010 not to execute the ICC arrest warrant against Bashir.

"No country has the right to decide or say who should attend or who should not," he said.

Malawi's foreign donors once provided roughly 40 percent of its development budget, but curbed funding amid the economic crisis and governance concerns blamed on former president Bingu wa Mutharika.

The southern African country has ratified the ICC's Rome statute which obliges in theory any signatory country to arrest Bashir once he steps into its territory.

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