Arab League to hold crisis talks on Sudan

The Arab League said on Saturday it will hold crisis talks on Sudan after reports the International Criminal Court may seek Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir's arrest, amid fears for peace efforts in Darfur.

The Cairo-based League received "an official from the Sudanese government and examined the latest developments in the situation between Sudan and the ICC," Hisham Yussef, secretary general Amr Mussa's chief of staff, the AFP reported.

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.

The call followed reports that ICC prosecutors would seek Beshir's arrest as they open a case covering crimes committed in the war-town western Sudanese region Darfur over the past five years.

But in Addis Ababa, the African Union warned that ICC plans to prosecute Beshir could jeopardize peace efforts in Darfur.

After a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the body's Peace and Security Council "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."

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.

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, with the state minister for foreign affairs Al-Samani al-Wasila telling AFP that any decision about the president could "destroy the peace process."

Sudan rejects the court's jurisdiction and refuses to surrender two war crimes suspects already named, amid fears of a military response by Sudanese forces or their proxies against UN and African Union peacekeepers.

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.

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