(AFP) – Jul 20, 2008
KHARTOUM (AFP) — Arab League chief Amr Mussa held talks with Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir on Sunday, armed with a plan in his pocket tipped to try to stall possible war crimes charges against the head of state.
"In so far as work is concerned, we had very, very serious discussions for the duration a little less than two hours," Mussa told reporters after meeting Beshir in the Sudanese capital.
"We agreed that I'm going to meet with the vice president and with some of the ministers and the advisors tomorrow. So in pursuance to what we have discussed, we might come back to him," he added.
Beshir has appointed a crisis committee, chaired by First Vice President Salva Kiir who heads the southern political party that has shared power with Beshir since a 2005 deal ended 21 years of civil war, to deal with the ICC row.
The Arab League secretary general said reception to his plan -- "right here in my pocket" had been good but refused to divulge its details and stopped short of expressing total optimism that he could secure a solution.
"Well, I'm confident we can make progress," he said when asked if he was confident he could solve the problem, before getting into his car.
Mussa flew to Sudan with an agreement from Arab foreign ministers to seek a political solution to the row sparked when the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court sought an arrest warrant for Beshir.
The Arab League on Saturday backed Sudan, slammed ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo as "unbalanced," but said that Sudanese courts should try those accused of war crimes during Darfur's five-year conflict.
Moreno-Ocampo accuses Beshir of personally instructing his forces to annihilate three non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur, masterminding murder, torture, pillaging and the use of rape to commit genocide.
The United Nations says that up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since the conflict erupted in February 2003. Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.
It began when African ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.
On Monday, Moreno-Ocampo asked ICC judges to issue a warrant for Beshir's arrest. If granted, which it is unlikely to be for months, it would be the first issued by The Hague-based court against a sitting head of state.
The Arab League has urged Sudan to give suspected Darfur war criminals trials that were not a "sham."
According to the ICC statute, if credible trials of alleged war criminals are held domestically the court's own charges are dropped.
Sudan's two other ICC indictees, current cabinet minister Ahmed Harun and Arab militia leader Ali Kosheib, had both been set to face trial in Sudanese courts on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Kosheib's trial was indefinitely suspended in March 2007. Harun was briefly detained and released last October for lack of evidence.
Sudanese diplomatic efforts now focus on persuading the UN Security Council to freeze any prosecution of Beshir for a year, renewable, warning that peace prospects would be severely undermined.
Egyptian state media, quoting Sudanese deputy foreign minister Al Samani al-Wassila, said Mussa would suggest to Beshir an international conference on finding a solution to the Darfur conflict and closing the ICC file.
Beshir dispatched Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha to Libya, a current member of the 15-strong Security Council, to rally leader Moamer Kadhafi's support against the ICC.
State minister for foreign affairs, Ali Karti, told reporters in Khartoum that information could soon emerge about Sudan approaching the Security Council to invoke article 16 of the Rome Statute.
The Security Council has the power to adopt a resolution requesting that the ICC suspend its procedures for 12 months.
Sudan is banking on strong support from the African Union, which can also put such a request to the Security Council, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
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