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African Economic Group Backs Sudan's Leader


Africa's largest trading bloc is backing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by a war crimes tribunal.

The 19-nation Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has called for the suspension of the arrest warrant against Mr. Bashir.

COMESA announced its support for the Sudanese leader in a communiqué released Monday, the final day of the group's summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Mr. Bashir had traveled to the summit in defiance of the International Criminal Court's warrant for his arrest. ICC prosecutors accuse Mr. Bashir of organizing a campaign of rape, murder and other crimes against civilians in Sudan's Darfur region.

Addressing the summit Monday, Mr. Bashir asserted that the ICC's warrant is part of a plot aimed at isolating, fragmenting and dividing his country.

Mr. Bashir vowed to fight the alleged plot, saying that through Sudan's own "efforts and resources" it would "overcome such designs."

The COMESA summit began Sunday with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe taking over the group's chairmanship from Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.

Zimbabwe has appealed to COMESA and other African groups for help in rebuilding its shattered economy.

A decade of political and economic turmoil has left the country with severe food shortages, a broken health care system, and 90 percent unemployment.

Many Western government blame Zimbabwe's problems on Mr. Mugabe's policies, and are waiting to see reforms from the country's new unity government before committing aid.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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