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08.03.2009 Sudan

Sudan president plans Darfur trip


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he will travel to Darfur, his first visit there since an international arrest warrant was issued for him.

Mr Bashir has been accused of committing war crimes in Darfur.

He told a rally in the capital, Khartoum, that if anyone wanted to fight him, they should come to Sudan instead of issuing arrest warrants.

He described as "thieves" the 13 aid agencies whose expulsion he announced earlier in the week.

He accused them of taking "99% of the budget for humanitarian work themselves, and giving the people of Darfur 1%."

The United Nations says the expulsion puts more than a million lives at risk.

At Saturday's rally, Mr Bashir danced in front of supporters from south Sudan, wearing a traditional feathered head-dress and colourful beads, AFP news agency reported.

"If someone wants to fight us, then they should not come with resolutions from the United Nations Security Council or the ICC," he said.

"They have to come to our land to fight us themselves."

Correspondents say his planned trip to Darfur on Sunday is a clear sign of defiance.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for Mr Bashir on 4 March, accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

It is the first such warrant served against a serving head of state.

But Mr Bashir has questioned the right of the ICC to try him, saying that if the court was genuinely impartial, it would also have jurisdiction over US citizens.

"Is this a court of justice? Are they [the US] members of it? If it is a court of justice, then why don't they join it?" he said.

Aid concerns
The UN Security Council, at its first meeting since the arrest warrant was issued, failed to agree on a statement asking Sudan to reverse the decision to expel the aid agencies.

Khartoum's UN ambassador denied the expulsions were politically-motivated, levelling accusations at the agencies.

"We have a full dossier of information against those organisations," Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed said.

"They are messing up everything as far as stability and security of Darfur is concerned. They are abusing the hospitality of the Sudanese people," AFP reported him as saying.

The key powers at the UN Security Council - Russia, China, France, the US and Britain - met to discuss a statement which called on Sudan to reverse the expulsions.

But diplomats say China, Sudan's key ally and trading partner, objected.

A delegation from the African Union and the Arab League is due to ask the Security Council to suspend the war crimes case against Sudan's president.