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African, Arab states try to thwart warrant against Sudan's Beshir
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Jan 13, 2009 - 7:51:54 AM

African, Arab states try to thwart warrant against Sudan's Beshir

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) African and Arab countries will try to halt international efforts to bring Sudan's president to justice, which a senior African official judged Tuesday would hurt peace chances for Darfur.

"Issuing an international arrest warrant against President (Omar al-) Beshir will have a very negative impact on the peace process in Darfur," African Union Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told AFP in a phone interview from Doha, where ministers from 15 African and Arab states are meeting to discuss the war-torn Sudanese region.

"Our meeting aims to study what's happened in terms of contacts with the Sudanese government and armed groups and see what we can do to suspend international justice efforts to bring proceedings against President Beshir," he said.

Judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague may decide as early as this month whether to issue an arrest warrant for Beshir, accused by the court's chief prosecutor of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The AU has denounced the effort, while Sudan has conducted a so-far futile diplomatic campaign to convince the three Western permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, France and the United States -- to stall any legal proceedings.

The UN estimates nearly 300,000 people have died since the conflict began six years ago in the western Sudanese province. Khartoum offers a far lower estimate of 10,000 dead in Darfur.The Doha meeting officially begins Wednesday.

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