A senior Sudanese diplomat says the safety of United Nations' peacekeepers in his country will not be in jeopardy, if the International Criminal Court, or ICC, grants a request for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. A decision from the pre-trial judges at The Hague is expected later this month.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, said Thursday that Khartoum would abide by its international obligations.

"The safety of the peacekeepers is not at all an issue here. The issue is the safety and security of the entire people of Sudan," he said. "So the people should not look to the issue like isolated islands or separate islands. We know, as I said before, the obligations of Sudan towards the U.N. presence in Sudan. But equally, the U.N. should demonstrate its commitment to safeguard their own personnel as well as the lives of the Sudanese."

Later this month, the International Criminal Court is expected to decide whether to grant its chief prosecutor's request for an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Sudan's Darfur region during the past five years.

Sudan has been pressing member states to call for a deferment of the case under what is known as Article 16. That would require at least nine of the 15 Security Council members voting in favor of the deferment, with none of the five veto-wielding members voting against it. The African Union and the League of Arab States have thrown their support behind that request.

Following closed-door consultations on Thursday, British Ambassador John Sawers said he does not believe the support for an Article 16 deferment currently exists within the Security Council.

"There certainly were not nine voices this morning," he said.

The U.N. Security Council referred the case to the International Criminal Court in March 2005. Costa Rican Ambassador Jorge Urbina, whose country has been very vocal on issues of impunity on the Security Council, said there should be no dilemma between peace and justice in Sudan.

"It is our belief that since the council referred the case of Sudan to the ICC, the council took the decision that justice was part of peace in Sudan," he said. "We believe that it is the duty of the council to help and promote durable peace in Sudan. And we believe that durable peace can only be the result of the reconciliation of peace and justice."

The Costa Rican ambassador pointed to the Dayton Process in the former Yugoslavia,saying that when it began in 2005, many politicians, diplomats and analysts argued that justice would interfere with the path to peace. But, he said, they have been proven wrong.

Ambassador Urbina's words angered Sudan's Ambassador Abdalhaleem. 

"It is very ironic that countries far from our region, like the country of the former ambassador who spoke to you, are now giving lectures about justice and peace," he said. "We need no lessons and lectures from ambassadors like the Costa Rican one. His statements here in front of you are totally unacceptable and they reflect in no uncertain terms his defeat because they have no logic and they have no consideration for priorities of peace in the Sudan."

The Sudanese ambassador also referred to the court's chief prosecutor as "crazy" and said that if the ICC granted the request for the arrest warrant, it would be like "giving birth to a dead rat that is smelling and of no use at all". He said Sudanese authorities are not worried about it and he predicted it would "die a natural death".

But United Nations officials are concerned about the ramifications a possible arrest warrant could have on their peacekeeping missions in Sudan, one in Darfur and the other in the south. A senior U.N. official said contingency planning has been underway at several levels within the organization.

Earlier, the Security Council had a briefing from the U.N.'s top envoy in Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, on the state of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended a long and bloody civil war between north and south Sudan.

He said the agreement has achieved much in the past four years, but that it has a great deal more to accomplish in the remaining two years before a scheduled referendum on whether the country will remain unified. The U.N. envoy warned that the agreement is vulnerable and that if it unravels, conflicts and instability in Sudan are likely to escalate dramatically.