- The UN Security Council was divided yesterday over a proposal forwarded by Libya and South Africa to suspend efforts to prosecute Sudan's President for genocide. Western veto powers went against the proposal.
The South African-Libyan appeal for suspension followed International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's request earlier this month to issue a warrant of arrest for President Omar al-Bashir.
President al-Bashir, who is the first acting head of state to be indicted by the ICC, is accused of masterminding a campaign of genocide that has killed over 200,000 and forced 2.5-million to flee their homes in Darfur.
Mr al-Bashir has said he is not worried by the accusations. Further his government has denied mobilising the Janjaweed militias, accused of widespread atrocities against Darfur's indigenous population.
The 15-member body, which met behind closed doors, had the US and two other key veto-holding council members, Britain and France, arguing that the ICC prosecutor should be given time to get a warrant for arrest of the Sudanese President.
"So we have a division in the council at this point. Some of the countries that voted against sanctions on Zimbabwe, against Mr. Mugabe are the ones that are pushing for suspension of Mr. Ocampo's recommendation," US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.
He said protecting one person, by suspending application of Mr Moreno-Ocampo was premature, adding there was no point in linking the mandate of UN/AU peacekeepers in Darfur (UNAMID) to any possible future indictments by the ICC.
The African Union-UN peacekeeping mission's mandate in Sudan's Darfur region expires at the end of July. Mr Khalilzad said he expected the Security Council to vote Wednesday to renew the mission for another year without inserting language on Mr al-Bashir's prosecution.
President Bush has been outspoken in labelling the situation in Darfur as genocide, but Washington itself has long opposed the international court out of fear it could be used against US troops or leaders.
Libya and South Africa, backed by two veto-holding council members Russia and China, say pursuing war crimes charges against President al-Bashir could place peacekeeping troops in added danger, with also concerns that an arrest warrant would complicate diplomatic efforts to reach a peace agreement for the troubled Darfur region.
Sudanese officials have said international aid workers and peacekeepers would be at risk as long as the indictment against President al-Bashir continues, also vowing to protect their President against ICC's accusations. Several official Sudanese spokesmen have clearly state there could be no peace in the region while the ICC proceeds against President al-Bashir.
The Security Council is scheduled to vote again on Wednesday on a British-drafted resolution extending UNAMID mandate for one year, but council diplomats said it could be delayed until Thursday, the final day of UNAMID's current mandate.
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