Sudan’s Beshir expected in Ethiopia

20 Apr 2009 (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir was set to visit Ethiopia on his latest foreign trip since an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes was issued against him, diplomats said Monday.

“President Beshir will arrive here to hold talks on bilateral issues. He’ll arrive either tonight or tomorrow. The trip will last three days,” the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, Akuei Bona Malwal, told AFP.

Another Sudanese diplomat specified that Beshir was expected to arrive in Addis Ababa on Monday, which an Ethiopian diplomat confirmed.

“President Beshir is arriving tonight in Addis for a meeting with Ethiopian authorities,” the Ethiopian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He added that Beshir would meet top government officials on Tuesday in the Sudanese-Ethiopian joint commission’s highest-level talks since 2005.

The Addis visit will be Beshir’s sixth foreign trip since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him on March 4 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

On April 1, he travelled to the holy Muslim city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, where he performed the umrah, or minor pilgrimage.

Before his Mecca visit Beshir attended a March 30 Arab League summit in Doha, where other Arab leaders formally pledged their support for the indicted leader and condemned the court’s actions.

“We stress our solidarity with Sudan and our rejection of the ICC decision against President Omar al-Beshir,” the Arab leaders said in the summit’s final declaration.

Beshir has dismissed the notion that the warrant could restrict his travel.

“We went to this summit to show those who said we could not travel outside Sudan that we can travel outside Sudan,” Beshir told reporters. “Nothing can intimidate us into stopping travelling.”

Beshir also travelled to neighbouring Egypt, Libya and Eritrea over the last month.

No attempt has been made to arrest him during any of the trips, all to countries — Ethiopia included — that were not signatories to the 2002 international convention that created the ICC.

Ethiopia had always made it clear it would ignore calls to arrest Beshir and has led a push by the Addis-based Africa Union for the United Nations Security Council to defer the indictments.

The ICC accuses Beshir of criminal responsibility for “exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians” from Darfur, where the United Nations says the conflict has cost 300,000 lives.

Sudan puts the death toll from the six-year war at only 10,000.

It was the Hague-based court’s first-ever arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.

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