The U.S. State Department says the Arab League summit in Qatar should have been a vehicle for condemnation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his expulsion of international relief workers. The summit is instead expected to call for suspension of the international arrest warrant against the Sudanese leader for Darfur war crimes.
Obama administration officials say the warm welcome accorded the Sudanese leader at the summit was inappropriate under the circumstances, and that Arab leaders should focus their energies on trying to get Mr. Bashir to reverse his expulsion of aid workers.
The Sudanese leader received a red carpet welcome Sunday in Qatar, despite the arrest order against him by the International Criminal Court for orchestrating war crimes in Darfur.
The United States is not a party to the ICC, but supported the court in assembling the case against the Sudanese leader, and has called for him to surrender and face charges.
At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duigud said Mr. Bashir's presence at the summit should have been an opportunity to bring forth international opprobrium, or public condemnation of the Sudanese leader for what is occurring in Darfur.
"We would hope that while he is in Doha that the Arab League would focus on the immediate and urgent needs of the people on the ground in Sudan, and address the grave humanitarian situation in Darfur, as well as the need to establish peace in Darfur and meet the key priorities of the (North-South) Comprehensive Peace Agreement. As they are going to be holding discussions, the discussions should be on how to stop the violence, support the people and re-establish peace in Darfur and south Sudan," he said.
The 22-nation summit is expected to approve a resolution calling for the ICC to suspend the action against Mr. Bashir.
A senior State Department official said the welcome given Mr. Bashir was not the reception that should have gone to someone whose country is in such turmoil, and whose decisions have forced badly-needed aid workers to leave their posts.
The United States has urged reversal of the expulsion order and says it accepts no link between it and the ICC indictment.
The Obama administration's newly-named special envoy for Sudan - retired U.S. Air Force Major-General Scott Gration - held meetings with White House officials Monday in advance of his first trip to the region.
Gration, a fluent Swahili speaker who spent several years of his youth in Africa, is expected to leave Washington later this week on a mission that will take him to Khartoum, Darfur, and southern Sudan.