JUBA, Sudan (AFP) — Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir warned on Wednesday that possible legal proceedings against him by the International Criminal Court would damage foreign investment in the oil-rich country.
He spoke during a rare visit to semi-autonomous southern Sudan, which fought a 21-year civil war against Beshir's government and where he made a defiant call for unity against The Hague-based court.
"Sudan is a vibrant country with a vibrant economy," Beshir told a news conference in remarks translated into English by a southern official.
"But of course we know there is a negative mass media campaign mounted against Sudan and of course what the ICC is doing will affect some of the investors who are interested seriously to come to invest in Sudan."
Last month, the chief ICC prosecutor accused Beshir of masterminding a genocidal campaign in Darfur and requested an arrest warrant on 10 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Rebels in Sudan's western region of Darfur first rose up against Beshir's regime in 2003, fighting for resources and power -- similar motives to those that inspired decades of southern rebellion.
Beshir last visited Juba in January 2007 when he and First Vice President Salva Kiir, the former rebel who leads the south, traded accusations over failures in implementing the 2005 agreement that ended 21 years of civil war.
Since then, Kiir's Sudan People's Liberation Movement has been the main if sometimes uneasy coalition partner of Beshir's National Congress party.
"We will not deal with it or respond to it (the ICC)," Beshir said.
"All its resolutions, let them just soak them into water and drink them," he added in a speech to the southern legislative assembly packed with senior officials from the southern leadership.
But despite warm words of welcome from Kiir, who described Juba as the president's "second home", the speaker of the regional parliament raised concerns about delayed implementation of the 2005 peace deal.
"This accord is the historic political, economic fabric of our society. Nobody regardless of who he or she is should be allowed to destroy this treaty of peace," James Wani Igga said to loud applause.
He called border demarcations the "mother of all elements" in the deal.
North and south are waiting for international arbitration in The Hague to settle their dispute over the border demarcation of the contested oil-rich area of Abyei, where fighting three months ago threatened to reignite civil war.
"Until now there are oil wells whose location is precarious to say the least," Igga said.
"No peace-loving Sudanese would want to see any quarrel of the two partners over where the precise line is," he added.
Since the Darfur accusations, Beshir has been at pains to emphasise national unity. His regime has waged a diplomatic campaign to suspend any legal proceedings and convince detractors it is working for peace.
On August 8, after a three-year impasse, he appointed a chief administrator -- a southerner -- and a northern deputy for Abyei.
They were given two weeks to name a seven-member administrative council and an area council of 20, but there has been no announcement of the line-up.
Beshir also made Kiir chairman of a top-level crisis committee appointed in a bid to counter the ICC prosecutor's call.
Wearing a safari suit, Beshir was greeted by a guard of honour at Juba airport before signing a hydroelectric agreement, which an official in Khartoum said paved the way for three dams to be built in southern Sudan.
"The contract will be with a Chinese company to build three dams, two in Equatoria and the third in Bahr el-Ghazal," dams authority spokesman Isam Omar told AFP.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy confirmed its ambassador was in Juba and that a contract had been signed, but could not provide further details.
China has opened a new consulate in Juba determined to tap greater economic potential from the undeveloped region.
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