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French official offers Sudan a deal to settle ICC row

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September 4, 2008 (KHARTOUM) – The French government presented to Sudan a plan that may lead to blocking investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to a news report.

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French Presidential Advisor for African Affairs Bruno Joubert (L) speaking to Sudan presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie in Khartoum September 2, 2008 (Akhbar Al-Youm)

The daily Al-Hayat newspaper published in London said that the French Presidential Advisor for African Affairs Bruno Joubert promised to support a deferral of ICC prosecutions through a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution.

In return for that Sudan would prosecute two suspects wanted by the ICC including Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb.

Joubert reportedly also asked Khartoum to place Haroun under house arrest and investigate his role in the Darfur war crimes. However the French official also insisted that Khartoum deal with the ICC and proposed an international team to review the Sudanese judicial system.

Paris also pressed Sudan to resolve the Darfur crisis, remove obstacles facing the Darfur peacekeepers

The French Presidential advisor who was on a two-day visit to Khartoum expressed his country’s desire to have good relations with the Sudanese government and to provide the necessary help to end Darfur crisis.

Joubert met with the Vice President Ali Osman Taha, Presidential Assistant Nafi Ali Nafi, Foreign Minister Deng Alor, Presidential Advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail and the chief of security and intelligence services Salah Abdallah Gosh.

Dr. Qutbi Al-Mahdi a senior figure at the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) acknowledged that they have received new French proposals and said that his government accepted some of the items and rejected the others.

He also ruled out any dealings with ICC despite the French demands and accused Paris of not being genuinely interested in resolving the Darfur crisis.

French-Sudanese relations have been strained over hosting of Abdel Wahid al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). Officials in Khartoum also hinted that France provided support to an attack by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on the capital last May.

The relations between the two countries went sour further after prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) asked pre-trial judges in mid-July to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

Sudan accused France of pushing Ocampo to proceed with his case against Al-Bashir.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at the time urged Al-Bashir to respect the decisions of the ICC.

“It is a decision by the International Criminal Court that President al-Bashir must respect. He must take the court recommendations into account, period” Kouchner told reporters following talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Paris.

Asked whether France would support the ICC whatever the repercussions on the search for a political settlement in Darfur, he replied: “We know what the possible consequences are, but we are supporters of this international court”.

“We know that it is not possible to protest against its decisions” Kouchner added.

Moreover the French envoy at the United Nations (UN) Jean-Maurice Ripert hinted that his government may freeze contacts with Al-Bashir if the ICC judges decide to issue an arrest warrant for him.

“The EU [European Union] rules are very clear. We have no dialogue and no cooperation with anyone indicted by the ICC; this is very clear” Ripert told reporters today at the UN headquarters in July.

The French diplomat further stressed that the “judicial process should go on” and suggested his country’s opposition to invoking article 16 of the ICC Statute to suspend Al-Bashir’s indictment.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.

(ST)

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