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Nigeria Defends Hosting Sudan's Bashir

Rights groups are demanding that Nigeria arrest visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

The Sudanese president is in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to attend an African Union health summit Monday and Tuesday focused on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Human Rights Watch and a local group, the Nigerian Coalition for the ICC, say Nigeria is obligated to arrest Mr. Bashir because of its membership in the international court and the crimes he is accused of committing against civilians in Darfur.

Activists asked Nigeria's Federal High Court Monday to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir.

A Nigerian presidential spokesman has indicated that authorities will not arrest Mr. Bashir. The spokesman, Reuben Abati, said Mr. Bashir came at the invitation of the African Union -- which has supported Mr. Bashir's refusal to surrender to the ICC or accept the court's authority.



Several African countries, including South Africa, have refused entry to Mr. Bashir.

Britain said Monday it was disappointed by Nigeria's decision. The country's Africa minister, Mark Simmonds, said the action sends Sudan's victims a "dismaying message" that they will have to wait longer for accountability.

A report by Sudan's official news agency noted Mr. Bashir's arrival in Nigeria on Sunday but made no mention of the ICC controversy.

The ICC has indicted Mr. Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. The court accuses him of orchestrating crimes including murder, rape and extermination against civilians in the region, where rebel groups have been fighting the Bashir government since 2003.

Mr. Bashir has denied the charges and defied the ICC's warrant for his arrest, but is careful to visit countries only that are not members of the ICC or have guaranteed his safety.

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