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Bush Wants to Keep Working With Sudanese President


U.S. President George Bush says the United Nations should keep working with the Sudanese government to get more African Union peacekeepers into the troubled Darfur region, despite Monday's arrest warrant for Sudan's president from the International Criminal Court. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush has long criticized Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for permitting many of the same human rights abuses included in his ICC indictment.

But the United States is not part of that court and has long questioned its jurisdiction to prosecute government officials or military personnel serving as peacekeepers.

Asked about President Bashir's indictment, President Bush told a White House news conference that the court's action should not affect ongoing negotiations with Khartoum to get more African Union troops into Darfur.

"My thought on Sudan is that the United Nations needs to work with this current government to get those troops in to help save lives," he said.

President Bush says it is a very difficult and unacceptable situation in Sudan where violence between rebels, local militia, and government troops has led to the deaths of some 300,000 people since 2003. More than two million people have been displaced by the fighting in Darfur.

Deployment of a joint United Nations - African Union peacekeeping force has been slowed by resistance from Khartoum and a lack of equipment. So far, only 9,000 police and soldiers are on the ground out of the 26,000 troops planned.

Aid officials are concerned that President Bashir's indictment could further slow that deployment and worsen the humanitarian situation in Darfur.

The U.S. State Department says Washington makes its own decisions about prosecuting war crimes and is in no way bound by ICC actions since President Bush refused to sign on to the court six years ago.

President Bush says he will keep working with President Bashir, along with all the other parties concerned, to end the violence in Darfur.

"We are trying to work with the rebel groups so that they speak more with one voice," he said. "We are trying to work with Bashir to make sure that he understands there will be continued sanctions if he doesn't move forward. We are trying to help get these AU troops throughout Africa into Sudan. We are working with the French on the issue of Chad."

Chad and Sudan have both accused each other of trying to destabilize their governments.

President Bush says he talked about Sudan with heads of state from the Group of Eight leading industrial nations in Japan last week. During the G8 summit, Mr. Bush discussed Darfur with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the current chairman of the African Union, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

Tanzania's Foreign Ministry Tuesday said President Bashir's indictment will have serious negative consequences on peace efforts and will complicate security on the ground.

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