CAIRO (AFP) — The Arab League said Saturday it will hold crisis talks on Sudan as the African Union warned that plans by the International Criminal Court to prosecute Sudanese leaders for alleged warcrimes could jeopardize peace efforts in Darfur.
The Cairo-based Arab League received "an official from the Sudanese government and examined the latest developments in the situation between Sudan and the ICC," secretary general Amr Mussa's chief of staff Hisham Yussef told reporters.
Earlier, the Sudanese ambassador to Egypt, Abdel Moneim Mabruk, told Egypt's official MENA news agency that his country had made a request to Mussa to hold crisis talks.
"The meeting will take place," Yussef said, adding that no date had yet been set.
In a statement released after a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the African Union's Peace and Security Council (PSC) "expressed its strong conviction that the search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardize efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace..."
It follows reports that ICC prosecutors may seek the arrest of President Omar al-Beshir for warcrimes committed by his forces in the western region of Darfur since 2003.
The Council said it had been briefed on the ICC's plans on Friday by the court's deputy prosecutor, and "reiterated the AU's concern with the misuse of indictments against African leaders."
It said the UN Security Council itself, in a March 2005 resolution, had "emphasized the need to promote healing and reconciliation" in the region.
A top AU official said "the PSC position is to warn the ICC on the risks of action against certain personalities that could jeopardize peace on the continent.
"The (PSC) briefing focused on Darfur and on the fact the next steps will be decisive, but the ICC did not give more precise information. There was no official mention about Beshir," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced on Thursday that he would unveil a new case on Darfur and name suspects next Monday.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Friday confirmed newspaper reports that ICC prosecutors would seek an arrest warrant for Beshir.
It would mark the first-ever bid by the ICC, based in The Hague, to charge a sitting head of state.
The Sudanese government reacted angrily to the news, amid fears of a military response by Sudanese forces or their proxies against UN and African Union peacekeepers.
Junior foreign minister Al-Samani al-Wasila told AFP that any decision about the president could "destroy the peace process."
Sudan has previously rejected the ICC's jurisdiction and refuses to surrender two warcrimes suspects, including a government minister, indicted last year.
On Tuesday, seven UN peacekeepers were killed and 22 were wounded in an ambush of a UN convoy in Darfur that some blamed on state-backed militia despite Khartoum's denials.
The UN says up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have been displaced since the Darfur conflict broke out in February 2003. The Sudanese government says 10,000 have been killed.
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