"We will respect any genuine proceedings," Luis Moreno Ocampo told reporters on Wednesday in reference to Khartoum's special court, which was due to hold its first hearings, already branded a fraud by rebels and rights groups, on the same day.

"We will assess carefully the national efforts and we will complement the efforts," the prosecutor said after meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in Cairo.

 

Ocampo also said he discussed the role of Egypt in assisting the ICC's investigation of war crimes, which have been committed mainly by pro-government forces in the conflict-ravaged western Sudanese region of Darfur.

 

"It is our duty to investigate what happened in Darfur," he said.

 

The Janjaweed are accused of mass murder and rape of civilians during the conflict, which erupted in February 2003.

 

UN cooperation

 

"The Darfur case was referred to the UN Security Council, which is acting under chapter seven of the UN charter," Ocampo said, referring to a provision that authorises foreign military intervention to enforce the decision.

 

"It is our duty to investigate what happened in Darfur"

Luis Moreno Ocampo,
Prosecutor

"Therefore all UN countries are expected to cooperate in this case," he said.

 

Arab countries, including Egypt, were reluctant to see the case of Darfur referred to the international court and have supported the establishment of a separate Sudanese judicial process.

 

Although Ocampo welcomed the level of cooperation between his court and Cairo, Abul Gheit insisted that Khartoum should be given a chance to complete its investigation of the alleged war crimes.

 

He warned against "adopting tough measures that would produce contrary results, not serve ongoing efforts to resolve the issue in the Sudanese region of Darfur and give a chance to the parties to deepen the crisis".

 

Government's chance

 

"The Sudanese government has expressed readiness to take action on the United Nations Security Council resolution and carry out the necessary investigations in the Darfur region," Abul Gheit said.

 

About 2.4 million people have
been made homeless in Darfur

"It's important that the Sudanese government be given a chance to implement the law, pursue the criminals and achieve justice."

 

Khartoum had warned last week that the launching of the investigation was counter-productive and could hamper the peace talks it was holding in Abuja with the rebel organisations.

 

Between 180,000 and 300,000 people have been killed and 2.4 million made homeless in Darfur since an uprising in early 2003.