TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – Sudan’s president visited his third country in four days Thursday, this time touching down in Libya, the latest country to welcome the leader who’s wanted by an international court on war crimes.
Omar al-Bashir met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi Thursday, praising Libya’s support for Sudan following the March 4 arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court. His visit Thursday came after a trip Wednesday to key U.S.-ally Egypt and a stop Monday in the isolated African nation, Eritrea.
The Sudanese leader has been emboldened by the decision of the 22-member Arab League to not enforce the warrant even though three of its member countries are signatories to the court’s founding treaty.
The court accuses al-Bashir of orchestrating a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that has involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. His government has been accused of unleashing Arab militiamen against Darfur civilians in a drive to put down a revolt by ethnic Africans in the western region. Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes since 2003, according to the U.N. Sudan says the U.N.’s figures are exaggerated.
Al-Bashir responded to the arrest warrant by expelling 13 foreign aid groups from Darfur, exposing hundreds of thousands of people already suffering from the six-year conflict to an even greater crisis. He has been greeted warmly in the countries he’s visited.
In a show of solidarity with the wanted leader, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak received al-Bashir at Cairo’s airport Wednesday.
The Sudanese president’s visits are designed to challenge the ICC and show that “he doesn’t care about the arrest warrant,” said Mohammed Aboul Fadl, an analyst with the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram.
“This is the same agenda that Sudan has adopted ever since the indictment became public,” Aboul Fadl said. “By visiting those countries, he is saying that his African relations are not being affected by the ICC … All those messages confirm that Sudan is not retreating, despite all the political pressures being practiced by the West.”
Another goal of the visits is to get Arab countries to help Sudan cope with the gap that was left by the departure of the aid groups, Aboul Fadl said.
The Sudanese president is also slated to attend the Arab League summit March 27 in the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar. However, there have been public calls in Sudan for him to stay away over concerns he might be taken into custody while there.
Neither Libya or Egypt are signatories to the ICC’s founding treaty, and both countries as well as the Arab League have backed al-Bashir, arguing that the warrant could further destabilize the country.
The United States is also not a signatory to the ICC but has been strongly critical of al-Bashir following the arrest warrant.