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Sudan says indicting president would risk bloodshed
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Jan 6, 2009 - 12:22:13 AM

Sudan says indicting president would risk bloodshed

Mon Jan 5, 2009 12:36pm EST
By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Sudan's government accused Darfur rebels on Monday of planning to launch attacks if President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is indicted for war crimes and said that would bring a new round of bloodshed.

Sudan has been trying to head off a possible International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Bashir after the court's prosecutor accused the president of genocide in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Khartoum's rule since 2003.

Foreign ministry undersecretary Mutrif Siddiq said rebels were building up forces just over the border in neighbouring Chad, ready for an attack on Sudanese cities and oil fields in South Kordofan, a region neighbouring Darfur.

The international court's judges are expected to decide later this month on whether to issue a warrant against Bashir.

"If this happens it is going to have a very negative impact," Siddiq told Reuters and the BBC. "The rebellion in Darfur will escalate. (The rebels) will feel jubilant... They will say they are fighting a legitimate cause against a criminal government and a criminal president."

Nobody was immediately available for comment from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement but leaders have repeatedly said they were preparing to attack "anytime, anywhere" in Sudan.

Siddiq said Sudan had solid information from inside Chad on the preparations for a possible attack by the rebel faction, which was driven back last May after an assault that reached the gates of Khartoum.

"We are preparing for such a step -- we will never allow it to happen. Definitely it will cost us lives and some publicity," said Siddiq, referring to possible further damage to Sudan's reputation abroad.

In July, the international court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accused Bashir of orchestrating genocide and other war crimes in Darfur. Sudan has rejected the accusations.

Siddiq said the government also suspected "political forces" in Khartoum could create instability if Bashir is indicted, adding that it might also fuel anti-western sentiment. He promised to warn westerners if there was any danger.

"If at any moment we feel we are not ready or able to protect them we will tell them to leave peacefully," he said, accusing western countries of using the court case decision to try to put pressure on Sudan.

Arab and African countries want any indictment for Bashir put on hold, believing it would damage hopes of peace in Sudan, but western states with permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council have the power to veto any postponement.

International experts say 200,000 have died since rebels took up arms against Sudan's government in 2003 accusing it of neglect. Khartoum puts the death count at 10,000.

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