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Sudan may expel Darfur peacekeepers if Bashir indicted – Bona Malwal

July 25, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) – A Sudanese Presidential Advisor threatened to expel the hybrid peacekeeping force from Darfur if President Omer al-Bashir is indicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

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Soldiers from the joint UNAMID peacekeeping force guard a supply convoy leaving El Fasher in Sudan’s Darfur region, Jan 13, 2008.

"We are telling the world that with the indictment of our president al-Beshir we can’t be responsible for the well-being of foreign forces in Darfur," Beshir’s advisor Bona Malual told reporters in Addis Ababa.

"After that we may ask them to withdraw from our territory," he added.

The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked pre-trial judges lon Monday 14 July to issue arrest warrants for Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.

Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. Judges are expected to take months to study the evidence before deciding whether to order Al-Bashir’s arrest.

"We reject this indictment totally," Malual said. "We will not submit our president to any kind of questioning or answering to a body Sudan is not part of."

A spokesman for the Sudanese foreign ministry denied that Khartoum had any intention of forcing peacekeepers to leave Darfur, suggesting that Malual could have been speaking out of turn.

"We are totally and strictly committed to our international obligations, particularly the UN Security Council resolution 1769. We will continue to co-operate with the African Union and the United Nations to make the hybrid operation a success," spokesman Ali al-Sadiq told AFP.

Reporting Malwal’s visit to Addis Ababa, the official SUNA avoided to make any mention to his statements about the expulsion of the Hybrid Mission from Darfur.

The Sudanese officials have reassured that the peacekeeping force would not be harmed by any retaliatory measures following the accusing of the Sudanese president by the ICC prosecutor.

Al-Bashir during his visit to El-Fasher two days ago visited the UN-AU mission and expressed his condolences to UNAMID over the death of seven peacekeepers killed earlier this month in North Darfur. He further pledged to provide the necessary protection for UNAMID staff and convoys.

Yesterday, some 126 members of the Egyptian Engineering Company arrived to Darfur joining 83 personnel already deployed in El Fasher on 7 June as part of the advanced team. Other Ethiopian troops are expected by the end of this month.

The United Nations and African Union aim to have some 26,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, but only 9,000 are on the ground.