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Middle East
Arab leaders snub al-Bashir warrant
Doha summit rejects bid to arrest Sudan's president over alleged Darfur war crimes.
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2009 16:40 GMT
Al-Bashir, left, is attending the summit in defiance
of an international arrest warrant [AFP]

Arab Leaders meeting in Doha, the Qatari capital, have rejected an international arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president accused of war crimes in Darfur.

In a draft communique issued at the end of the first day of the 21st Arab League summit on Monday, the leaders said they considered the warrant to be in violation of the Vienna agreement of 1961.

It stated that any efforts to address the situation in Darfur would need an agreement between all Sudanese factions, rather the trial of the president.

Ibrahim al-Faqir, the Sudanese ambassador in Doha, told Al Jazeera: "We are very pleased at the Arab support to President al-bashir and we are hopeful to have the solidarity with the president in the final statement.

'Fight to the end'

"We are also hopeful that no Arab president will be let down. We are going to fight until the end."

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Al-Bashir has been accused by the International Criminal Court in The Hague of war crimes in the country's western region of Darfur.

The United Nations says at least 300,000 people have died, many from disease and hunger, since fighting broke out in 2003 between black Africans and Arab militia alleged to have links to the Sudanese government.

Khartoum has dismissed the UN's account of deaths in Darfur, saying about 10,000 people have died.

The communique also set conditions for the future direction of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"They say tha the Arab Peace Initiative is still there but it won't be there for long," Al Jazeera's Amr el-Kahky, reporting from the summit, said.

Prosecution sought

He said they set two conditions for the future of peace talks; that Israel halts settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and agrees to a time limit to fulfill its obligations towards peace.

The summit statement said Arab leaders had agreed to establish a legal committee to seek to prosecute Israeli leaders over Israel's 22-day offensive in Gaza which ended in January, leaving more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.

"The communique condemns Israeli practices, is sceptical of its future policies, but at the same time commends the Obama administration on some of its declarations and the European Union on some of its steps," Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said.
 
"In terms of their own peace initiative the language has not been as strong as expected ... it says they will still try to review it ... and try to lobby the international quartet ... about making sure that Israel would adopt it."

Earlier Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, said that, while the Arab Peace Initiative was still on the table, the new incoming Israeli government under Benyamin Netanyahu was "not a peace partner". 

"Israel sees its future in removing the Palestinians to an alternative homeland," he said. "Israeli society is becoming more extremist and aggressive."

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Janabi, reporting from the summit, said: "Arab leaders have stressed in their final statement that peace wil not be achieved unless the Israeli occupation is gone from all occupied Arab lands including Syrian Golan and Palestinian West Bank."

Al-Bashir attended the summit in defiance of the warrant issued by ICC, but Qatar is not obliged to arrest al-Bashir as it is not a signatory to the ICC.

'Blind eye'

Al-Bashir criticised the UN security council, the body that mandated the ICC prosecutor to investigate the situation in Darfur, on Monday saying that its credibility was at stake with 'some countries having hegemony".

"I remain extremely concerned by the government's decision to expel key international non-governmental organisations ... that provide life-sustaining services for more than one million people"

Ban Ki-moon,
UN secretary-general

He called it an "undemocratic institution that ... applies double standards, targeted the weak and gave a blind eye to the criminals".

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, had criticised Sudan's decision to expel 13 international aid agencies from the Darfur region after the ICC arrest warrant was issued.

"I remain extremely concerned by the government's decision to expel key international non-governmental organisations, and suspend the work of three national NGOs [non-governmental organisations] that provide life-sustaining services for more than one million people," he said.

Jamie Balfour-Paul, the Middle East policy adviser for Oxfam, rejected Sudanese allegations that the UK-based charity was spying for the ICC.

"We don't have an agreement with the ICC, we are a humanitarian organisation and we are impartial," he said. "We don't have anything to do with the ICC and we don't have a position on its decision."

Despite the apparent unity over the Sudan issue, Arab nations have deeply divided over relations with Iran and the response to Israel's 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which left at least 1,300 Palestinians dead. 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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