INTERVIEW-Sudan rejects US charge on arms transfers to south* Groups: north-south ties deteriorate, both sides arming
* Sudan criticizes ICC prosecutor ahead of decision
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Sudan's U.N. ambassador on Friday dismissed as "irresponsible" U.S. allegations that weapons from northern Sudan were going to armed groups in the semi-autonomous south ahead of a nationwide April election.
Earlier this week the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Washington was concerned about the flow of arms, including heavy weapons, into southern Sudan, and believed they were coming from northern Sudan and neighboring countries.
Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters that Khartoum "categorically denied" Rice's allegations.
"The statement by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. attributing arms flows to south Sudan to the north is most irresponsible," he said in an interview.
"It demonstrates that Susan Rice is still imprisoning herself in the past and failed to move from an activist position to that of a worthy representative of a superpower."
He added that it was U.S. arms sales that were making the world less safe, not weapons from his oil-rich African nation.
U.N. officials have said privately that they, too, suspect the north was supplying southern militants with weapons.
The oil-producing nation's north and south fought each other for more than two decades until a 2005 peace deal that promised national elections, due in April, and a referendum on southern independence in January 2011.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), an independent multinational group, has said relations between the two sides have broken down and Sudan needed more time to prepare for a widely expected 'yes' vote for southern independence if it wanted to avoid a violent break-up.
Armies from both sides, and an array of rebel groups and militias, are also stockpiling arms ahead of any conflict, despite U.N. and European Union arms embargoes, according to a December 2009 report by the Small Arms Survey.
The Enough Project, a U.S.-based anti-genocide group, has been saying for months that increasingly sophisticated attacks by the same ethnic-based militias that were used by Khartoum in the south during the civil war was cause for great alarm.
The Sudanese envoy also reacted angrily to comments from the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who said this week that he expected a genocide charge soon against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. [ID:nLDE60R1PZ]
Abdalhaleem said that "the enemies of Sudan" were trying to use Moreno-Ocampo to destroy the peace process for Sudan's western Darfur region and insisted that Khartoum would never cooperate with The Hague-based court.
He said Moreno-Ocampo was "just a screwdriver in the workshop of double standards and injustice and the ICC is the European Guantanamo." He was referring to the controversial U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in March 2009 for alleged war crimes in Sudan's western Darfur region in connection with mass killings and deportations, but it said there were insufficient grounds to charge him with genocide.
Moreno-Ocampo appealed that decision to press for a genocide indictment.
The ICC has said it will issue a decision on the appeal on Feb. 3.
Bashir described the warrant against him as "all lies" last year and ordered major aid agencies out of Sudan in response.
Estimates vary widely on how many people have died in the Darfur conflict, which began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 have died, but Sudan's estimate is 10,000. (Editing by Paul Simao)