Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Bashir vows to defy Darfur charge


Omar al-Bashir: "We will not succumb to colonialists"

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has angrily rejected the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against him.

Mr Bashir told thousands of cheering supporters in the capital that Sudan would not "kneel" to colonialists.

He said he defied outsiders to come to Sudan and talk about human rights.

He is accused of two counts of war crimes and five of crimes against humanity in Darfur, in the first ICC warrant for a serving head of state.

Mr Bashir, 65, told a rally in the city's Martyrs Square: "We are telling the colonialists we are not succumbing; we are not submitting; we will not kneel; we are targeted because we refuse to submit."

We will carry on rejecting colonialism
Omar al-Bashir

The African Union (AU) decided at an emergency meeting on Thursday to send a high-level delegation to press the UN Security Council to delay the indictment.

Bruno Zidouemba, of the AU's Peace and Security Council, said the 53-member bloc hoped the move would "give a chance for peace in Sudan".

Sudan's envoy had earlier told the meeting that African states should withdraw from the international tribunal.

Mohieldin Ahmed Salim had urged the AU in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to "issue a clear decision in strongest terms to reject the ICC decision," according to AFP new agency.

Asked whether the arrest warrant would affect President Bashir's ability to travel, Mr Salim said Sudan's leader would travel if he wanted to and would carry out his normal duties as head of state.

China, which buys much of Sudan's oil and sells it weapons, has also urged the court to postpone the case, warning it risked destabilising Darfur.

Some Arab nations have echoed fears that the ruling would hinder Darfur peace efforts, but the US and EU have welcomed Wednesday's ICC decision.

Sudan reacted to the ICC indictment by expelling 10 foreign aid agencies, including Oxfam, Care, Save the Children UK and Medecins Sans Frontieres from Darfur.

Between them they supply food and water to some 1.5 million people who have fled their homes during the six-year conflict.

The agencies say lives will be put at risk but the government insists the aid groups all have political agendas and are using their humanitarian activities as cover.

'Lions and tigers'

Thursday's rally in the capital was the latest show of public support for Sudan's veteran leader.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Khartoum says pro-Bashir supporters, some in cars with loud-speakers, shouted slogans denouncing the West.


"We are lions and we have tigers," Mr Bashir told the crowd, waving his walking stick in the air. "We will carry on rejecting colonialism."

He said the ICC, together with the UN Security Council and the International Monetary Fund, were trying to "colonise people anew and steal their resources".

"They claim that human rights are being violated in Sudan," he said. "We defy them to come here in Sudan and show us what's happening here."

On Wednesday, the ICC accused Mr Bashir of responsibility for a campaign of extermination, rape and pillage during the Darfur conflict.

Mr Bashir was charged with two counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against civilians and pillaging.

He is also accused of five crimes against humanity counts: murder; extermination; forcible transfer; torture and rape.

But the tribunal at The Hague rejected a further allegation of genocide, saying there was insufficient evidence.

The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million displaced in Darfur, since black African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime demanding a greater share of resources and power.

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