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02.04.2009 Sudan

Sudan Leader On Mecca Pilgrimage

By Daily Guide
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Omar Bashir The Sudanese president has arrived in Saudi Arabia, the fifth state he has visited since an international warrant was issued for his arrest.

State TV in Sudan said Omar al-Bashir would perform a lesser pilgrimage in Mecca before returning to Khartoum.

He has just attended an Arab League summit in Qatar, where he received strong support from Arab leaders.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama's new envoy to Sudan is due to make his first visit to the country.

Former air force general J Scott Gration will travel to Darfur, as well as visiting southern Sudan and the capital, Khartoum.

He is expected to ask Mr Bashir is to allow aid agencies to return to Darfur.

Sudan expelled 13 large foreign aid agencies, mostly from Darfur, after it accused them of spying for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The court indicted Mr Bashir of orchestrating atrocities against civilians in Darfur, where his Arab-led government has been battling black African rebels since 2003.

Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

Sudan denies the charges and says the figures are exaggerated.

The Arab League, many African states and Sudan's key ally China have called for the ICC proceedings to be suspended, arguing they will hamper efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

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