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Sudan's Bashir absent from C.African Rep. event
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Dec 1, 2010 - 7:16:03 AM


Sudan's Bashir absent from C.African Rep. event

Wed Dec 1, 2010 12:59pm GMT

* Second absence from regional event in a week

* ICC reminds CAR of duty to arrest Bashir


BANGUI, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir missed Central African Republic's independence celebration on Wednesday after what a local official said was diplomatic pressure for the genocide indictee to stay away.

Bashir, whose indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes in Sudan's Darfur has restricted his movements to friendly nations, also failed to show up for a European Union-Africa summit in Libya earlier this week.

The ICC had urged Central African Republic to comply with an international obligation to arrest Bashir if he turned up.

There was no official explanation for Bashir's absence from the event in its neighbour. But an aide to Central African Republic President Francois Bozize said it followed a long conversation late on Tuesday between Bozize and French Cooperation Minister Henri de Raincourt, who was present.

"I think Bashir's absence is a result of the conversation between the French minister and the head of state," the aide said. "Not only France finds this invitation very embarrassing but it would cause us big problems if Bashir came."

Bashir's absence from two regional events in the space of less than a week is an indication of the concerted diplomatic pressure on even nearby countries to shun him.

In Khartoum, a presidential source said Bashir had decided not to attend the event, without elaborating on the reasons.

Bashir has been indicted for war crimes and genocide in Darfur. The European Union and member countries strongly back The Hague-based ICC.

The United Nations estimates some 300,000 people died in a humanitarian crisis sparked by Khartoum's counter-insurgency campaign launched in Darfur in 2003 against rebels from mostly non-Arab tribes. Washington calls the violence genocide, a term Sudan strongly rejects. (Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana in Bangui, Sara Webb in Amsterdam and Opheera McDoom in Khartoum; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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