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Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 16:40 UK

AU rejects Bashir Darfur charges

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, file image
Mr Bashir is accused of masterminding the deaths of thousands in Darfur

The African Union has called for the UN Security Council to suspend war crimes accusations against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir over Darfur.

The African foreign ministers said the request to charge Mr Bashir would jeopardise the peace process.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) accuses Mr Bashir of genocide in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

The Security Council has the power to delay ICC indictments by up to 12 months, reports the AFP news agency.

"The African Union requests the UN Security Council to defer the process initiated by the ICC, taking into account the need to ensure that the ongoing peace process is not jeopardised," Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe told reporters after a meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Earlier, Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki said any move to indict Mr Bashir would be "counter-productive".

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked the court for a warrant to arrest Sudan's leader.

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Mr Moreno-Campo has accused the Sudanese leader of running a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through a "slow death" and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes in Darfur.

The AU supplies most of the 9,000 peacekeepers in Darfur. The UN took joint control of the operation at the start of the year but the violence is continuing.

On Sunday, the head of the Arab League Amr Moussa met President Bashir to discuss the accusations.

Mr Moussa said a plan drawn up by the Arab League to solve the crisis had been well received in Khartoum.

During a meeting in Cairo on Saturday, the Arab League condemned the ICC's call to arrest Mr Bashir on war crimes charges.

The Arab League said the ICC's move was "unbalanced".

"In so far as work is concerned, we had very, very serious discussions for the duration [of] a little less than two hours," Mr Moussa said.

Mr Moussa did not reveal any details of the Arab League's plan, but the organisation called for Sudan to hold credible trials for those accused of war crimes in Darfur.



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