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UN Chief Urges Sudanese President to Cooperate with ICC

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should cooperate fully with whatever decision the International Criminal Court, or ICC, issues regarding his case and ensure the safety of civilians and U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan.

The court is considering whether to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir on charges including genocide for atrocities committed in his country's Darfur region. A decision is expected any day.

Mr. Ban said he is awaiting the independent court's decision and urged Sudan's president to act responsibly.

"Whatever the circumstances or decision of the ICC may be, it will be very important for President Bashir and the Sudanese Government to react very responsibly and ensure the safety and security of United Nations peacekeepers and protect the human rights of all the population there, and also faithfully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," Mr. Ban said. "And he should fully cooperate with whatever decision the ICC makes."

The International Criminal Court is expected to decide this month whether to grant chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's request for an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for atrocities committed in Darfur during the last five years.

Sudan has so far rejected the court's authority. If the judges call for Mr. Bashir's arrest and Khartoum does not comply, it could create a very difficult and complicated situation for the United Nations, which has some 20,000 peacekeepers in Darfur and southern Sudan.

Khartoum has said the safety of the peacekeepers is not in jeopardy, but it has warned that it cannot control public outrage if an arrest warrant is issued for the president.

Since the court took up the case of President Bashir, Mr. Ban has sought to limit his personal contact with him. But the secretary-general told a press conference Tuesday that on his recent visit to Ethiopia for the African Union summit, it was necessary that they meet.

"I thought that during this Addis [Ababa] AU Summit meeting that it would be very crucially important as secretary-general, in discharging my duties as secretary-general, in ensuring peace and security and ensuring safety and security of our U.N. Mission and civil population, that I should meet President Bashir at this time," Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban credited their talks with fewer casualties in the Darfur town of Muhajiriya, where there were clashes between Sudanese forces and rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement. He said rebels withdrew from the area and the Sudanese military restricted their aerial attacks to the outskirts of the town, avoiding heavy casualties.