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Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 11:58 UK

Sudan angered by genocide claims

Omar al-Bashir at a rally in Khartoum, 13 July
Mr Bashir is accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity

The Sudanese government has responded angrily after an international prosecutor accused President Omar al-Bashir of genocide in Darfur.

Sudan's UN envoy said the International Criminal Court had no jurisdiction in Sudan and that it would not co-operate.

Vice-President Ali Osman Taha said the evidence was false and indicated Sudan could try to halt the court's work.

A pro-government rally is due to take place in Khartoum soon and the UN is to begin removing some staff from Darfur.

The United Nations said the decision to pull back some non-essential staff came after recent violence and as a precaution after the genocide accusation.

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Mr Bashir, who says the accusations are lies, is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent body, are yet to decide if there are reasonable grounds to issue an arrest warrant against Mr Bashir.

'No jurisdiction'

The president's most senior adviser, Dr Ghazi Salaheddin, told the BBC that his country did not recognise the jurisdiction of the court and would rally support among allies in an attempt to block proceedings.

Efforts to indict a sitting head of state would set a dangerous precedent, he said.

The President and government officials defiant in Khartoum

Allegations of genocide by the prosecutor were designed to generate hostility between tribal groups in Darfur, Mr Salaheddin said, adding that an international commission recognised by the UN had already dismissed such claims.

Mr Salaheddin denied that the government of Sudan was blackmailing the international community by failing to provide security guarantees for peacekeepers and humanitarian staff.

However, he also said that if the ICC pursued the case it could jeopardise relations between Sudan and the UN.

The UN - which has no influence in the region - runs large-scale humanitarian operations in the region and has thousands of peacekeepers in Darfur as part of a joint mission with the African Union.

African Union dilemma

Elsewhere, China said it was concerned about the ICC's decision to seek the arrest of Omar al-Bashir.

ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BASHIR
Genocide:
Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups' physical destruction
Crimes against humanity:
Murder
Extermination
Forcible transfer
Rape
Torture
War crimes:
Attacks on civilians in Darfur
Pillaging towns and villages

A foreign ministry spokesman said China would continue to consult with other members of the UN Security Council about whether to block the ICC but would not speculate on possible results of talks.

The US, which is not part of the ICC, offered some praise on Monday for prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's charge.

"In our view, recognition of the humanitarian disaster and the atrocities that have gone on there is a positive thing," state department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

But the African Union (AU), which has troops on the ground in Darfur, urged caution.

Speaking on behalf of the AU chairman, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said the ICC should suspend its decision on whether to seek Mr Bashir's arrest until problems in Darfur were resolved.

The Peace and Security Commissioner for the African Union, Ramtane Lamamra, has flown to Sudan for a meeting with Mr Bashir and other members of the government.

Difficult position

The AU Commission expressed concern that "hard-won gains made in the search for peace and reconciliation in the Sudan" could be jeopardised.

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I strongly support the ICC's move, I do not want to see people dying anymore
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Foreign ministers of the 15 countries currently serving on the AU's Peace and Security Council are expected to meet in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital where the AU is based, some time next week.

The charges against President Bashir put African countries in an acutely difficult position, says the BBC's Liz Blunt in Addis Ababa.

They supply almost all the troops for the joint AU/UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, and are also the countries most likely to be called upon to carry out any arrest warrant.

Sudan's government is expected to meet friends from the Arab League on Saturday, reports the BBC's Karen Allen in Khartoum, to chart the way forward.

It will also seek to defend itself against what many consider to be an assault not only on the country's sovereignty, but also an attack on Islam, our correspondent says.

It has already refused to hand over two suspects whom Mr Moreno-Ocampo charged last year, Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmad Harun and militia leader Ali Kushayb.

UN relocation

The joint UN-African Union Darfur mission, Unamid, currently plans to relocate approximately 200 people.

One of my neighbours found a bullet in the gate of the house that he rents
UN worker in Darfur

On 8 July, seven Unamid peacekeepers of the joint UN-African Union Darfur mission were killed and 22 injured after they were attacked by heavily armed militia in northern Darfur.

As of May this year, Unamid included nearly 9,600 uniformed personnel and about 1,300 civilian staff, both international and local.

Some 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Darfur since 2003 while more than two million people have fled their homes, the UN estimates.

Sudan's government denies mobilising Arab Janjaweed militias to attack black African civilians in Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003.


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