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Sudan Welcomes Egyptian, South African Calls to Suspend Bashir Indictment

Sudan's government is welcoming calls by Egypt and South Africa for a 12-momnth suspension of the International Criminal Court's indictment against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes. This follows a joint news conference between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and South African President Thabo Mbeki in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Both presidents called for a 12-month postponement, during which they said steps could be taken to decrease tensions in the country.

Presidents Mubarak and Mbeki reportedly said the indictment would not only undermine efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis in Darfur, but also derail full implementation of a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which effectively ended Sudan's north-south civil war. Ambassador Ali Saddick is the spokesman for Sudan's foreign ministry. From the capital, Khartoum, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Bashir's government appreciates the call by Presidents Mubarak and Mbeki.

"We expected it because both Egypt and South Africa are brotherly and sisterly countries. We have always been in continuous contact and consultations with them at very high levels such as in our embassies in the United Nations, and elsewhere. And it is known that the government of Sudan's position is that the suspension of the indictments itself is not our target. We need the whole process to be stopped and cancelled. But since it is the agreement of the Africa Union that they will seek the suspension of the indictments and as we are part of the African Union, we abide by whatever they agree upon," Saddick pointed out.

He said Sudan's government is prepared to work with the international community and the United Nations to resolve the Darfur crisis.

"Although this is not our target, we will accept that we will try our best to work with the region, the concerned countries in the region and the international community, especially with the United Nations to resolve the problem. We will do our best to make the political process a success, and at the same time we will work with the United Nations and the African Union to complete the deployment of the 26,000-hybrid operation in Darfur," he said.

Saddick said there was need for western countries to cooperate with Sudan in dealing with the political situation on the ground.

"This depends greatly on the level of cooperation we receive from the international community. You know, most of the rebels of Darfur are living in western countries. They are motioning campaigns of distortion of facts against the government. If the European and the western powers -- especially, France and the United Kingdom and the United States -- if they are not willing to cooperate and they are not willing to help the political process to achieve success then, it is very hard that we can achieve something. But from our path we do our best. We have done our best, and we will continue to do that to make the hybrid operation and the political process a success," Saddick noted.

He said the indictment could have an adverse effect on the full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the north and the south, which ended two decades of civil war in Sudan.

"It has, it must, and it should have an effect on the CPA, and this is what we are trying to avoid as the partners of the CPA as government and the National Congress and the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) have pledged to minimize whatever effect that might result from the indictment on the agreement a couple of years ago," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Libya and South Africa submitted a proposal supporting the 12-month suspension of the ICC warrants to the UN Monday. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accused the Sudanese president 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. He urged that an arrest warrant be issued against Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, where a civil war has been raging since 2003.