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AU Wants UN to Suspend Bashir Indictments

The African Union is sending a high-level delegation to the U.N. Security Council to plead for suspension of the war crimes indictments against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Sudan appealed to African members of the International Criminal Court to withdraw in protest.

The AU Peace and Security Council is expressing dismay the United Nations has ignored a unanimous appeal from Africa's leaders at their recent summit to postpone the ICC arrest warrants against Sudan's president.

Burkina Faso's Ambassador Bruno Nongoma Zidouemba, who holds the AU Council's rotating chairmanship, called the U.N. body's failure to suspend the indictments a "misunderstanding". He said Africa's top diplomats are being dispatched to New York to ask for reconsideration, and told reporters he expects the mission to succeed.

"We did not foresee failing," said Ambassador Zidouemba. "We will be heard. We think until now there is a kind of misunderstanding. The ICC will not be here without the African countries. If you take the number, two-thirds are from Africa. Africa is not against the ICC to punish international crimes, but we have a special case in Darfur and the sudan, which is that we have to take into account the necessity for peace to prevail in sudan."

The delegation is likely to be led by AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping, Africa's top diplomat and a past president of the U.N. General Assembly.

In a speech to a closed session of the AU Peace and Security Council Thursday, Sudanese Ambassador Mohieldin Salim Ahmed argued the indictments would thwart efforts for a peaceful settlement in Darfur. He called on the 33 African ICC member states to show their contempt for the ICC action by withdrawing from the Rome Statute that created the court.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Ambassador Salim said he expects strong support from African leaders.

"We are confident that our continent is not going to fail us," he said. "The case is not now the case of Sudan, it is the case of Africa, and that has been reflected clearly in all the interventions of the African leaders in the last summit."

A communiqué issued at the end of Thursday's meeting appears to acknowledge the difficult choice facing African nations that are party to the Rome statute.

On the one hand ICC member states are bound to uphold the court's actions. On the other hand are strong feelings that the ICC employs a double standard in focusing on Africa while avoiding issues involving the Middle East and powerful members of the U.N. Security Council.

The communiqué calls for ICC member states to meet before the next AU summit in July to consider whether withdraw from the statute. But diplomats say that time frame is roughly the same as the previous schedule, giving conflicted members time to wait and see whether Africa's views on the indictment are taken into account before beginning their deliberations.