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03.10.2008 General News

Bashir warning on Darfur charges

By BBC



Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said attempts to indict him for war crimes could derail peace efforts in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

Prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) could also have a "catastrophic impact" on regional stability, he said.

The ICC is trying to indict Mr Bashir over attacks in war-torn Darfur.
Sudan has rejected the allegations, and African nations have urged the UN to block any prosecution.

But ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who asked judges to issue an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir in July, said last week that he will continue to push for charges.

He said he had evidence that Mr Bashir was controlling attacks against civilians in Darfur.

Local people had been raped and killed by both the Sudanese army and Janjaweed pro-government militias, he said.

The ICC is expected to rule on how to proceed before the end of this year.

'Negative signal'

The Darfur rebellion began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab groups took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination.

Up to 300,000 people have been killed and as many as 2.5 million have been forced from their homes.

Mr Bashir's government has denied mobilising the Janjaweed militias, accused of widespread atrocities against Darfur's black African population, and on Thursday he said any prosecution could derail peace efforts.

"It impedes the Darfur peace talks by sending negative signals to Darfur rebel movements to distance themselves from the negotiating table," he said during a diplomatic summit in Accra, Ghana.

"It also threatens the democratic transformation in Sudan where political parties have braced themselves for elections next year, and will have a catastrophic impact on stability in the entire region," he said.

But he added: "In spite of all this I wish to affirm our commitment to implement the peace agreements and settle the Darfur conflict through negotiations."

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