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Sudan defiant on warning by French president over ICC indictment

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December 9, 2008 (PARIS) — The Sudanese government reacted angrily to statements by French president Nicolas Sarkozy in which he warned that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir has “little time” to take bold steps that brings peace to the war ravaged region of Darfur.

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French President Nicholas Sarkozy listens as Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, not seen, makes his introductory speech at a conference, in London, Monday Dec. 8, 2008 (AP)

“Either he changes his attitude and the international community can hold discussions with him, or he does not change his attitude and will have to face up to his responsibilities, including before the International Criminal Court” Sarkozy said in an address to mark 60 years since the adoption of the UN rights declaration.

The remarks drew sharp rebuke from Khartoum.

“France has always played a negative role in the Darfur peace process since the Abuja talks in 2006” the Sudanese foreign spokesperson Ali Al-Sadiq told the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat today.

“The statements by the French president sends wrong signals to Darfur rebels” he added.

Khartoum and Paris often thorny relations appeared to be improving particularly after a meeting between Sarkozy and Al-Bashir in the Arab Gulf state of Qatar on the sidelines of the UN development conference.

Following the meeting Al-Bashir said that his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to pressure a rebel leader to attend any future peace talks.

Al-Bashir also said that he sensed a “positive development” on the French stance with regards to the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue before adding that no agreement has been reached.

The embattled Sudanese president faces a possible arrest warrant by the ICC for allegedly orchestrating genocide in Darfur.

The ICC judges are still reviewing the evidence before making a ruling that could come as early as next month.

The African Union (AU), Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) called for invoking Article 16 which allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.

France has been the only country to publicly offer Sudan a suspension of charges in return for concessions on the ground with regard to the Darfur crisis and relations with neighboring Chad.

Sudanese officials have appeared increasingly optimistic that Paris and London will push for a suspension.

However, Eric Chevalier, the spokesperson of the French foreign ministry told reporters today that stalling the ICC move “is not on the table”.

“We are waiting from the Sudanese government what its people want to see particularly in Darfur” Chevalier said in statements reported by Italian news agency (AKI).

“A radical and immediate change for policies taken by authorities particularly on ceasefire, strengthening relations with Chad, removing obstacles for deployment of peacekeepers and complying with ICC decisions” he added.

The French official further said that his government supports Qatari mediation efforts in Darfur “as long as it doesn’t raise the issue of invoking Article 16 as its goal”.

But Al-Sadiq reiterated his government’s position that they will not cooperate with The Hague based court.

The Sudanese ambassador in Paris Suleiman Mustafa said that “no one will force to deal with the ICC or open channels with it or take any move in that direction”.

Mustafa called on countries “that blame Sudan” to press the Darfur rebel groups to respond to peace efforts.

In the heart of disagreements between the two countries is the presence of Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in France despite demands by Khartoum that he be expelled.

Al-Nur has been refusing to attend peace talks insisting that Khartoum honor a ceasefire and facilitate deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur.

UN experts estimate some 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes. Sudan blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

(ST)

Written by torit1955

December 10, 2008 at 6:04 am

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