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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Uganda rebel chief 'still wanted'
Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony calls himself a freedom fighter
The International Criminal Court says its arrest warrant for the leader of Uganda's northern rebels still stands despite a Ugandan offer of an amnesty.

On Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni promised to grant Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony amnesty if peace talks next week are successful.

Mr Kony and four others were indicted by the ICC for war crimes last year.

The talks between the government and rebels are considered northern Uganda's best chance for peace in years.

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It would be totally wrong to encourage African devils to continue killing fellow Africans in the name of freedom fighting, and later be given red carpets
Beau Garcon, Bujumbura

They are scheduled to take place next week in the southern Sudanese town of Juba, and will be mediated by the south Sudan regional government.

In a recent BBC interview, Mr Kony denied the LRA had carried out atrocities, particularly on children.

Thousands have died in the two-decade conflict between rebels and the government, and some two million have been forced to flee their homes.

Welcomed

"The position of the court up till now is that these warrants of arrest remain in force and the court has received assurances from the relevant countries that they will co-operate in effecting these warrants of arrest," the ICC's spokesman Ernest Sagaga told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Forgiveness is always a virtue and a value to be very much promoted nationwide and internationally
Archbishop Odama

When asked if the ICC would withdraw the arrest warrants in the interests of peace, Mr Sagaga said he was unable to comment on this, saying to would be "premature to do so".

He said as the court did not have its own army or police force, member countries were obliged and expected to co-operate with the court.

Even though the south Sudan and Ugandan government were planning to meet the rebels, he said: "We have no reason not to believe what they said to the court that their co-operation will be forthcoming regarding this matter."

'Abandon terrorism'

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Karen Allen says the latest stance taken by President Museveni is bound to enrage many in the international community.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
First permanent court to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations
Rome Statute set up in July 1998, when 120 countries adopted the treaty
Came into force in April 2002 after ratification by 60 countries
Uganda and DR Congo investigations began in 2004

But a senior church leader in the Acholi region welcomed the move.

"Forgiveness is always a virtue and a value to be very much promoted nationwide and internationally," the Archbishop of Gulu, John Baptist Odama, told the BBC.

He said despite the horrors that rebels had carried out, those who returned from the bush and asked for forgiveness were accepted back into the communities.

"Revenge should not be seen as justice."

"I have seen people live with those who have returned and they know they killed their children, they even greet them. I think that is magnanimity of the heart."

Earlier, Mr Museveni's office said in a statement that it would grant the amnesty if the rebel leader "responds positively to the talks... and abandons terrorism", despite the ICC indictments.

The statement comes a week after the BBC's Newsnight programme broadcast an interview with the elusive Joseph Kony, in which he described himself as a "freedom fighter".

He said stories of LRA rebels cutting off people's ears or lips were Ugandan government propaganda.




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