Sudanese President Sudan Omar al-Bashir has offered hope for an end to the violence in Darfur by announcing a new initiative to resolve the ongoing conflict. The measure follows an indictment against the Sudanese president by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports on the Sudanese president's visit in Istanbul.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said at a new conference in Istanbul that new efforts will be launched in the coming days to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of his country. President Bashir said talks would be held with political opposition groups within Sudan.

A senior Sudanese diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity during the Turkey-Africa summit, said the peace talks could start as early as this Monday and that any proposals would then be presented to the Darfur rebels.

President Omar al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague last month on genocide and war crimes charges. Prosecutors say militias unleashed by his government have killed some 300,000 ethnic Africans since 2003. More than 2.5 million have been displaced.

President Bashir dismisses the charges as being politically motivated and counterproductive.

He said accusations by the International Criminal Court against some Sudanese individuals are being brought by people wishing to encourage the movement against peace.

President Bashir also accused court and the international media of exaggerating the numbers killed in the Darfur conflict.

"As for the number of dead, we challenge any agency to come and prove the accuracy of the figures published in the Western media," he said. "They say 300,000 were killed. We ask: where are the graves? Darfur is now open."  

He dismissed the charge by the international prosecutor of mass rape, saying rape was against the cultural and religious traditions of his country. He also criticized the prosecutor for compiling a case against him without visiting Sudan.

President Bashir claimed the indictment has been rejected by much of the international community and that his government would not respect it. He also reiterated his commitment to hold free elections next year with international monitors and said a referendum to determine the future of Darfur will be held in the region in 2011.