Organisers said as many as a million people took part in the state-sponsored rally on Tuesday, the strongest show of defiance by Khartoum so far against a Security Council resolution demanding prosecution before the court of 51 suspects.

Protestors directed much of their anger against British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and French and US presidents Jacques Chirac and George Bush, but they also had harsh words for UN chief Kofi Annan.

"Death to Bush, death to Blair, death to Chirac," chanted the demonstrators, many of whom travelled in from the provinces for the rally.

Traffic came to a standstill in the capital, as the protesters marched from the republican palace to the UN headquarters, calling for Annan to resign.

"No surrender of Sudanese to the International Criminal Court", read one banner carried by the protesters. "We are ready to defend our country," said another.

Darfur conflict

A 10-strong delegation of demonstrators was allowed to hand in a protest letter at the French embassy, but a heavy security force presence blocked access to the British and US missions.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd which attempted to break through their lines.

Al-Bashir has vowed not to give
up the war crimes suspects

The Sudanese government has vowed to defy the Security Council's demand for international prosecution of the 51 officials, security force and militia commanders accused of gross violations in the war-wracked western region of Darfur.

On Monday, President Umar al-Bashir solemnly swore "thrice in the name of Almighty Allah that I shall never hand any Sudanese national to a foreign court".

The UN inquiry found that Sudanese government forces and militias had committed abuses including murder, torture, rape and pillage in the suppression of the two-year-old uprising in Darfur.

On Tuesday UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave the ICC  the list of 51 suspects, the first step towards a war-crimes prosecution.

The sealed list was gathered by an independent commission sent by the UN Security Council to Darfur last year. The Darfur case is the first referred by the Security Council to the tribunal, the world's first permanent criminal court.

The prosecutor at the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he had received the sealed list and would analyse the thousands of documents collected by the UN-appointed International Commission of Inquiry, and assess the crimes and the admissibility of the cases.

 

The scorched earth campaign waged by the government against the rebels has left more than 300,000 dead and 2.4 million people displaced, according to a report by a British parliamentary committee.

Khartoum denies the allegations and says the rebels started the war and have committed numerous atrocities.