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Sudan's Bashir in Chad, First Visit to ICC Country Since Warrant

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (R) walks with Sudan's First Vice President and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir at the airport in Khartoum, as he prepares to leave for Chad, 21 Jul 2010

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in Chad, his first visit to a country that recognizes the war crimes court seeking his arrest.

Witnesses say the Sudanese leader was greeted by Chad's President Idriss Deby after his plane landed in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena Wednesday. Mr. Bashir is due to attend a summit of Sahel and Saharan leaders.

The International Criminal Court indicted Mr. Bashir last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. Last week, the court added genocide charges.

Earlier Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on Chad to either deny entry to Mr. Bashir or arrest him.

Sudanese officials say they do not believe Chad will attempt to arrest the president. The countries are trying to patch up relations after years of hostility.

Upon his arrival in Chad Wednesday, Mr. Bashir told reporters that Chad and Sudan have resolved their differences and are in a new phase of relations.

Before the visit, Sudan said it had expelled several prominent Chadian rebel leaders who were living in its territory. That move is seen as a concession to Chad. Sudan and Chad have often traded accusations of supporting each other's rebel groups.

The ICC has no authority to enforce warrants and can only try to persuade member states to turn over a suspect for prosecution.

The semi-official Sudanese Media Center said President Bashir will hold meetings with Chad's president and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during his stay.

Darfur has experienced seven years of war and instability since rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing Sudan's government of neglecting the western region.

ICC prosecutors say President Bashir has masterminded a campaign of murder, rape and other crimes against civilians in Darfur. Sudan denies the charges and refuses to recognize the court.

The United Nations says fighting and related violence in Darfur has killed 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.