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Sudan on collision course with UN over Darfur trials

4/4/2005 5:56pm

KHARTOUM, April 4 (AFP) -- Sudan was on a collision course with the United Nations Monday after refusing to surrender suspected Darfur war criminals to the International Criminal Court for trial as demanded by the Security Council.

Branding Thursday's resolution demanding prosecution in the Hague of 51 named suspects, including senior officials, a violation of its sovereignty, the Khartoum regime insisted its own courts were competent to try them.

President Omar al-Beshir solemnly swore "thrice in the name of Almighty Allah that I shall never hand any Sudanese national to a foreign court."

And Information Minister Abdel Basit Sabdarat said the government would launch "an extensive diplomatic campaign" to explain its defiance of the world body.

A UN commission of inquiry in January found that Sudanese government forces and militias had committed gross human rights violations in the suppression of a two-year-old ethnic minority uprising in Darfur.

They included the killing of civilians, torture, rape and pillage.

Resolution 1593, passed by the Security Council by a 11-0 majority, overrode strong opposition from Sudan to impose international trials for the 51 suspects identified by the UN commission.

UN special envoy Jan Pronk warned Khartoum against taking the path of defiance of the international community.

"I advise the government of Sudan to work together with the ICC," Pronk told a news conference late Sunday.

He rejected Sudanese claims the resolution was an affront to its sovereignty, saying it was the "outcome of a long discussion in the UN for measures against specific persons in the Sudan."

He said he had advised the government on several previous occasions to "bring violators of human rights to justice but there was no response."

The scorched earth campaign waged by the government against the rebels has left more than 300,000 dead and 2.4 million people displaced, according to a report by a British parliamentary committee.

A ceasefire signed by both sides a year ago has been widely violated despite the deployment of an African Union monitoring force, prompting ever louder demands from the rebels for the intervention of Western armies with more sophisticated logistics capabilities.

The rebels spoke out strongly Monday against Egyptian plans to host a mini-summit of African leaders on the Darfur crisis later this month, advising Sudan's northern neighbour instead to focus its efforts on persuading the government to cooperate with the United Nations.

"Those mini-summits do not serve the cause of Darfur nor that of the Sudanese people," said Abdel Waheed Mohammed Nur, leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of the two Darfur rebel factions.

"The Sudanese government exploits those mini-summits like a mark of support which only increases its stubbornness."

Cairo should instead pressure Khartoum to "hand over those responsible for war crimes in Darfur to the International Court of Justice" and "turn to the United Nations as the main mediator in finding a solution to the Darfur and Sudan crisis," he said.

Egypt plans to host a mini-summit with Chad, Libya and Nigeria as well as Sudan in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on April 20.

A similar five-way meeting on Darfur -- also without the presence of the rebel movements -- was held in Libya last October but produced no results.

Egypt has voiced some sympathy with Sudanese objections to UN resolutions on Darfur.

"On Darfur, the resolutions adopted recently have created a situation that could create complications... The international community must take care not to adopt measures or resolutions... that lead to the opposite effect of that wanted," warned Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

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