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Sudanese president cancels Uganda visit over arrest threat

July 16, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The Sudanese Omer Hassan Al-Bashir will not attend the Smart Partnership conference in Kampala on July 26th despite being invited, a Ugandan official said today.

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (WP)

“The invitation still stands ... (but) we will handle it through diplomatic channels to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience to anybody,” James Mugume, a senior Ugandan foreign affairs official, told Reuters by telephone.

“It’s a codeword for an agreement that President Bashir delegates another senior cabinet-ranked person. That was agreed,” he said.

The announcement followed a week of contradictory remarks by Ugandan officials over whether or not Bashir will face arrest if he attends the summit in light of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for him.

Uganda is a signatory of the ICC Statute and has referred the case of the Lord resistance Army (LRA) to the court for investigation.

But the AU resolution adopted at the summit held in Libya earlier this month instructs its members who are party to the treaty not to cooperate with the ICC in apprehending Bashir.

Sudanese official news agency (SUNA) has reported that Ugandan president Yoweri Musievini apologized to Bashir over remarks made by one of his ministers indicating that the Sudanese head of state could be apprehended during the summit.

But on Tuesday East Africa and Regional Affairs Minister Isaac Musumba told parliament that his government wishes to “avoid a possible diplomatic incident” resulting from Bashir’s visit.

Musumba’s statements were taken to suggest the possibility of extradition to The Hague by Ugandan authorities.

However today the deputy Sudanese foreign minister Al-Samani Al-Wasila told SUNA that he spoke over the phone with Musumba who reiterated to him that Uganda would never arrest Bashir saying it is a “violation of the customs and traditions of Ugandan people”.

Al-Wasila asked about the participation of Bashir in the summit, said that nothing prevents him from attending if it is deemed necessary and beneficial to Sudan as well as fitting into the president’s schedule.

(ST)