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Libya rules out extraditing JEM leader to Sudan

June 3, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Libyan government today formally announced that it has no intention of handing over a Darfur rebel leader to Sudan to face charges related to a 2008 attack he launched on the capital.

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Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim (R) attends a news conference following peace talks in Doha February 17, 2009 (Reuters)

The leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Khalil Ibrahim has been residing in the Libyan capital following the surprising refusal by Chadian authorities to let him in and forced him to return to Tripoli after destroying his passport.

Chad has been a hub for JEM fighters and political officers through which they entered to their bases inside Darfur. However, a recent thaw in relations between Sudan and its Western neighbor created the unexpected situation for JEM.

The rebel group had called on the UN Secretary General and the Joint Peace Mediator to ensure his return to Darfur. Ibrahim further said he would not go back to the negotiating table on Doha unless he returns to Darfur. However, Khartoum rejected his return in Darfur and said it is no longer interested in talking to him and will seek his prosecution.

Last month, Sudan urged all states and particularly neighboring ones not to receive the rebel leader on the grounds that the existence of JEM leader on their territories “will not to contribute to termination of the war in Darfur”.

Khartoum also dispatched a number of its senior officials to Tripoli last month and several phone calls were exchanged between Bashir and Gaddafi in an apparent bid to have the latter oust the rebel chief.

The Libyan foreign minister Mousa Kousa, speaking in Cairo where he attended an Arab League meeting said that his government will not eject Ibrahim from its territories.

"We did not invite Khalil Ibrahim to Libya .. he is the one who came to us and from a humanitarian perspective we cannot kick him out" Kousa said.

This is the first time Libya makes a public position on the issue.

Kousa stressed that Libya cannot respond positively to the extradition request because his country is mediating in the Darfur issue and therefore it will not surrender a figure who is a party to the crisis in Sudan’s western region.

Sudan sent an arrest warrant for Ibrahim to the Interpol to face 14 counts related to his group’s surprise attack at the outskirts of Khartoum.

JEM is one of two rebel groups that took up arms against Sudan’s government in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the remote western region of Darfur and marginalizing its population. The group suspended peace talks with the government, accusing it of breaking a ceasefire and failing to honor an initial peace deal signed in Qatari capital Doha in February.