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Sudan's Muslim Scholars Tell President to Stay Home

Sudan's highest religious authority has issued a ruling that President Omar al-Bashir, who is targeted by an international arrest warrant, should not attend an Arab summit in Qatar.

In its fatwa (opinion), the Committee of Muslim Scholars said the president should stay away from the meeting to avoid the enemies of the nation.

Mr. Bashir has insisted he will attend the March 30 summit in Doha despite the International Criminal Court's call for his arrest, for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

However, a Sudanese presidential spokesman said Sunday that no final decision has been made on whether Mr. Bashir will go.

Qatar is not likely to arrest Mr. Bashir because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the founding text of the International Criminal Court.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC's chief prosecutor, told the BBC that Mr. Bashir only needs to enter international air space for U.N. members to cooperate with the court's arrest warrant.

Sudanese officials say security precautions will be in place if Mr. Bashir makes the trip.

Hours after the issuance of the warrant earlier this month, the Sudanese president ordered 13 foreign aid groups out of Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo told the BBC that the expulsion of the aid groups confirmed that President Bashir is, in the prosecutor's words, "exterminating his people."

Prosecutors at the ICC accuse President Bashir of masterminding a campaign of rape, murder and other crimes against civilians in Darfur, where his government has been fighting rebels since 2003.

The United Nations says the fighting and related violence in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people, and displaced more than 2.5 million others. Sudan says the death toll is around 10,000.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.