AU seeks to delay Bashir indictment

African Union condemns move to charge Sudanese president over alleged war crimes.

    Demonstrations against the ICC have been held almost daily in Sudan [Reuters]

    Earlier Sudanese officials expressed confidence that the AU would back al-Bashir.

    "We expect the African Union's solidarity and condemnation of the indictment," Mutrif Siddig, a Sudanese foreign ministry official, said ahead of the meeting in Addis Ababa.

    'War crimes'

    The AU meeting was called to discuss the attempt by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, to charge al-Bashir on suspicion of masterminding crimes against humanity in Sudan's western Darfur region.

    Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of orchestrating genocide that has killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through "slow death" and forced 2.5 million from their homes.

    Some analysts agree that the crisis over the court's demand could derail the fragile peace process in Africa's biggest country, but Khartoum has emphasised that it will pursue diplomacy rather than encouraging any violent backlash.

    The AU's role is important because the UN resolution which referred Darfur to the international court in 2005 emphasised the need for co-operation with the bloc.

    Tanzania, which currently chairs the AU, has already urged the court to suspend the move to arrest al-Bashir.

    Arab backing

    The Arab League has also criticised the court and Amr Mussa, the body's secretary general is in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, for talks on a plan to resolve the crisis.

    Mussa said reception to his plan had been good but refused to divulge its details and stopped short of expressing total optimism that he could secure a solution.

    "Well, I'm confident we can make progress," he said.

    Al-Bashir's officials have been touring regional capitals to drum up support for Sudan's president.

    Following a meeting with Sudan's envoys, Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's president, said that al-Bashir should not be "subjected to legal recourse in courts that may not have an understanding of the conflict".

    Street protests

    Demonstrations against the ICC have been held almost daily in Sudan, with many war veterans protesting against the charges.

    But they have been small and without the heavy government backing evident at some past demonstrations.

    Following the prosecutor's request for a warrant to arrest al-Bashir, the UN has moved to raise security for its operations in the country, evacuate staff families and withdraw non-essential personnel.

    Sudan has described the UN move as an overreaction.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.