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Sudan wants arrest warrant quashed

SUDAN said yesterday it was looking at how to get an arrest warrant against its president suspended or quashed - the first sign that it might engage with the international community on the issue, not just defy it.

Any such move by the government appears at odds with statements from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir pouring scorn on the West and refusing to deal with the International Criminal Court, which alleges that he committed war crimes in Darfur.

In a sign that tension is still rising, the United States embassy authorized the voluntary departure of non-essential staff, partly as a rebuke to Sudan for expelling aid groups.

Sudan expelled 13 aid groups working in the war-ravaged western region of Darfur after the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court indicted the Sudanese president for war crimes there and issued an arrest warrant for him.

"The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the US Embassy in Khartoum until further notice," said the message, which also recommended Americans avoid travel to Sudan.

The embassy recommended US citizens in Sudan should have their own contingency plans to leave the country, since the embassy's means was limited and might close at any time for security reasons.

Gunmen on Monday opened fire on UN-African Union peacekeepers in western Darfur, in the first reported violence against the mission since the warrant was issued.

One peacekeeper remains in a serious condition, spokesman Noureddine Mezni said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ali Al-Sadig said officials were considering referring the warrant, issued last week, to the International Court of Justice and asking allies to push for a postponement of the case in the UN Security Council.

"There are some ideas being discussed. Maybe in the coming three or four days, things might come out very clearly," he said.

He added that officials were holding talks with all members of the UN Security Council who have spoken out against the warrant. Some analysts say the warrant could spark more violence in Darfur.


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