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22.02.2009 Egypt

Sudan leader set for Cairo talks

By myjoyonline

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is to make a one-day visit to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

It comes as the International Criminal Court is expected to announce soon if it is going to issue an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

Mr Mubarak has called for more time for Mr Bashir to negotiate with rebel groups in the western Sudan region.

Up to 300,000 people are thought to have died there in a six-year conflict between the government and rebels.

If, as expected, the International Criminal Court (ICC) does issue an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir then it will split the international community into two camps.

Britain, France and the US will be on one side, with the African Union, the Arab League and China on the other.

Egypt, in line with Arab thinking, believes the arrest warrant would scupper negotiations with the rebel groups, risking further instability on its doorstep.

That is why Cairo is exerting efforts at both regional and international levels to support the Sudanese government while negotiations are ongoing.

Two weeks ago, Mr Mubarak paid a visit to his French counterpart in Paris calling for more time.

The Egyptians want the court to defer the arrest warrant for at least a year to give the Sudanese president space to work.

But the argument from the West is that it is the threat of indictment that has suddenly concentrated minds in Khartoum and pushed the Bashir government towards ceasefire declarations.

The Sudanese president is guaranteed to hear words of support from Cairo, but he knows that when this arrest warrant comes - as seems increasingly likely - then his freedom to travel further than Cairo will be greatly curtailed.

Story by Fiifi Koomson