19 Aug 2008

Sudan's Bashir makes first trip abroad as indictment looms

9:41 pm on 19 August 2008

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court moved to indict him for genocide, met his Turkish counterpart in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo last month asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, saying his state apparatus had killed 35,000 people and indirectly at least another 100,000.

Mr Bashir has defied the court, calling its move part of a neo-colonialist agenda to protect the interests of developed countries.

Turkey has not ratified the treaty forming the court but is under pressure to become a member as part of negotiations to join the European Union.

Judges could take weeks or months to issue a warrant, but have never failed to issue one after it was requested by the prosecutor.

Sudan has warned the United Nations of "serious consequences" for its staff and facilities if an arrest warrant is issued for Mr Bashir.

International experts estimate 200,000 people died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in Darfur since non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 with the

backing of the central government in Khartoum.

United States-based Human Rights Watch has called on Turkey to express its support for the court during Mr Bashir's visit.

But energy-thirsty Turkey is seeking to boost investments and trade with sub-Saharan Africa, following similar moves by emerging powerhouses China and India.