The two main Darfur rebel groups welcomed the resolution and said they would both comply by sending to the court any members of their groups accused of crimes.
The U.N. Security Council late on Thursday voted 11-0 with four abstentions to refer a sealed list of 51 people accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur to the ICC, after last-minute wrangling to allow exemptions for U.S. citizens. The resolution is the first referral to the ICC by the council.
"I believe it is unfair, ill-advised and narrow-minded," Sudan's state minister for foreign affairs, Najeeb al-Kheir Abdul Wahab, told Reuters. "It undermines the government's quest for justice in Darfur through reconciliation."
Abdul Wahab said the government would nevertheless study the resolution and take "appropriate action" on implementation. He declined to say whether the government rejected or accepted it.
The list includes senior Sudanese government and army officials, Arab militia leaders and some rebel leaders and foreign army commanders, but has remained sealed in the office of the U.N. secretary-general until the Security Council decided which court they would be referred to.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was due to report back to the Security Council in three months.
"Before starting an investigation, I am required under the statute to assess factors including crimes and admissibility. I look forward to cooperation from relevant parties to collect this information," he said.
Sudan for the first time earlier this week said it had arrested 15 officials from the military and security forces for crimes including rape, killing civilians and burning villages.
But analysts said it was too little too late for the Security Council, which also strengthened an arms embargo on the African nation and imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on those who violate a shaky ceasefire in remote Darfur.
2 MILLION FLED
The United Nations says Sudan has done very little to disarm the Arab militias accused of a widespread campaign of rape, killing and burning of non-Arab villages in Darfur during more than two years of rebellion by non-Arab groups.
The rebels say the government discriminates against them in favor of Arab tribes.
More than 2 million people have fled their homes and tens of thousands have been killed in the Darfur fighting, which the United States called genocide.
A U.N.-appointed commission stopped short of the calling it genocide, but said crimes against humanity had been committed and may be no less serious than genocide. It also did not rule out that individuals may have acted with genocidal intent.
The two main Darfur rebel groups welcomed the resolution and said if those who committed crimes in Darfur were brought to justice it could help restart stalled African Union-sponsored peace talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
"This is a big day for justice in our country," the leader of the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), told Reuters from Asmara.
"I myself personally, if my name is on that list or any other member of our movement, we are ready to go because we are just fighting for justice," SLA leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur said.
The other main Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), thanked France for drafting the original resolution and proposed establishing an interim government of unity including all the people of Sudan. It urged the international community to set up a credible organ to ensure the government handed over to the court those accused of crimes.
"We are declaring our readiness to support the ICC," JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim told reporters in Asmara.
"We know the names of all the criminals. We know their whereabouts, where they work, where they hide, where they live, what they have done, where are the witnesses," he added.
(Additional reporting by Amsterdam bureau and Ed Harris in Asmara)