Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sudan leader's warning in Darfur


A defiant Omar al-Bashir dances at a Darfur rally

Sudan's president has issued a warning to peacekeepers, diplomats and aid staff while visting Darfur, in the wake of a war crimes warrant against him.

Omar al-Bashir said all foreign missions in Sudan must obey the law or face expulsion, as he visited the North Darfur capital of El Fasher.

Mr Bashir was greeted by thousands of flag-waving supporters, many riding camels and horses.

Correspondents described the trip as a calculated show of defiance.

The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million displaced in Darfur, since black African rebels took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-dominated regime demanding a greater share of resources and power.

Analysts say Mr Bashir placed himself in some personal danger by visiting El Fasher, despite the heavy security, because most people in Darfur are said to support the war crimes indictment against him.


We will kick them out directly

President Bashir

The most active rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement - which last May launched an unprecedented attack on Khartoum - has threatened to target El Fasher in the past.

Nevertheless Mr Bashir, 65, travelled from El Fasher airport on Sunday in an open vehicle to the centre of town along a route lined with cheering supporters.

Waving flags and pictures of the president, the crowd chanted his name, as well as slogans against International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and the West.

Mr Bashir warned foreign peacekeepers, diplomats and aid workers to obey Sudanese law or face expulsion.

"I have a message to all the diplomatic missions in Sudan, the non-governmental organisations and the peacekeepers," he said.

"They have to respect the rule of the country. If anyone goes further than the rule of the country, we will kick them out directly."

On Saturday in the capital, Mr Bashir described as "thieves" and "spies" the 13 aid agencies he kicked out following the ICC indictment.

Mr Bashir accused aid groups of taking "99% of the budget for humanitarian work themselves, and giving the people of Darfur 1%".

The United Nations says the expulsion puts more than a million lives at risk.

The ICC issued a warrant for Mr Bashir on 4 March, accusing him of two counts of war crimes and five crimes against humanity in Darfur.

It is the first such indictment against a serving president.

International divisions

The UN Security Council, at its first meeting since the arrest warrant was issued, failed on Saturday to agree on a statement asking Sudan to reverse the decision to expel the aid agencies.

The key powers at the UN Security Council - Russia, China, France, the US and Britain - met to discuss a statement which called on Sudan to reverse the expulsions.

But diplomats say China, which buys Sudan's oil and sells it weapons, objected.

A delegation from the African Union and the Arab League is due to ask the Security Council to suspend the war crimes case against Sudan's president.

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