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Sudanese march against UN war crimes resolution

4/5/2005 6:30pm

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, April 5 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Sudanese marched through the capital Khartoum on Tuesday in response to the government's campaign against a U.N. resolution referring war crime suspects to the International Criminal Court.

Chanting slogans denouncing the United Nations and the United States, angry protesters stopped at the U.N. building, then the British embassy and finally the U.S. embassy, where they shouted: "Down, down, USA."

At the U.N. building, they called Secretary-General Kofi Annan a coward and an American agent.

The state-owned mobile phone company MobiTel had publicized the protest march through a text message sent out to many subscribers on Monday evening.

The U.N. Security Council voted 11-0 last Thursday to refer alleged war crimes committed during more than two years of rebellion in the remote Darfur region to the international court in The Hague -- the first such referral.

But Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on Saturday that Sudan would not allow any Sudanese to be tried in courts outside the country. Other leaders and political groups close to the government have taken the same position.

One of the demonstrators, interior decorator Ibrahim Saleh, said: "We refuse to have any Sudanese citizen tried outside the country. This is neocolonialism."

The U.N. says Sudan has done little to disarm the Arab militia accused of widespread rape, killing and burning of non-Arab villages in Darfur during a two-year rebel uprising.

More than two million people have fled their homes and tens of thousands have been killed in the Darfur fighting.

"We totally reject this unjust resolution. Our courts are good enough to try anyone for crimes. We don't want any foreign intervention," added Mutassem Youssef, who comes from the town of Zalingei in Western Darfur state.

Babikar Mohamed, a 60-year-old technician who took part in the four-hour protest, said: "The United States and the French just want our resources. They want our oil. We are Muslims and we want to be tried in our own courts."

About 200 students took part in a similar protest at the U.N. building on Saturday and protests have taken place in the Nile valley north of Khartoum.

The United States says genocide has taken place in Darfur. A U.N.-appointed commission stopped short of calling it genocide but said heinous crimes took place and may be no less serious.

The commission gave Annan gave a sealed list of 51 suspects, including senior government and army officials, militia leaders and some rebel and foreign army commanders. The ICC took charge of box loads of documents about alleged war crimes on Tuesday.

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