27.07.2008 General News

Sudanese warning on peacekeepers

27.07.2008 LISTEN

Sudan has again warned it cannot guarantee the safety of UN and African Union peacekeepers in Darfur if its president is indicted for war crimes.

A presidential adviser said that if the International Criminal Court indicted Omar al-Bashir, Sudan could not be held responsible for the troops' well-being.

Earlier this month, the ICC prosecutor asked judges in The Hague to issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir.

The judges are expected to announce their decision in a few weeks' time.

The adviser, Bona Malual, told the BBC the government was not expelling the joint UN/AU force (Unamid), or even threatening the troops.

It was, he said, simply saying how Sudan would view the situation.

Seven UN peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in northern Darfur the week before the prosecutor's request.

Visas in question

Mr Malual, a veteran south Sudanese politician, was speaking in Ethiopia, which he is visiting as part of Sudan's diplomatic offensive against the indictment.

He was more forthright than any other Sudanese spokesman has been so far about the effect a possible indictment might have on peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Darfur, says the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Mr Malual suggested Unamid could become a kind of Trojan Horse, bringing the threat of arrest into Sudan's own sovereign territory.

He said it meant that the government could not be held responsible for the security and well-being of the peacekeepers and other foreign nationals in Darfur.

It was not a question of asking them to withdraw, he said, but if they did not take this seriously, and left their people in Darfur and anything happened to them, then it was their own responsibility.

The only thing the government might do, he added, would be to cancel the visas and permits they needed to remain in the country.

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