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Indicted Sudan leader to skip Islamic summit, say Turkish officials

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-09

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will not attend an Islamic summit in Istanbul next week following EU objections, Turkish officials say. Bashir is the subject of an international arrest warrant for war crimes.

REUTERS - Sudan's indicted President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will not attend an Islamic summit in Istanbul as planned, Turkish government officials said on Sunday, after  the European Union raised objections to his visit.

Bashir, against whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region, had announced plans to attend a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on Monday.

"We have learned that he is not coming," a Turkish government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, without elaborating. Other Turkish officials, visibly relieved at the news, also confirmed that Bashir was not attending.

Earlier, in comments reported by state-run news agency Anatolian, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had denied that Bashir was responsible for genocide in Darfur and said he would be more comfortable talking to the Sudanese president than to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I wouldn't be able to speak with Netanyahu so comfortably but I would speak comfortably with Bashir. I say comfortably "What you've done is wrong". And I would say it to his face. Why? Because a Muslim couldn't do such things. A Muslim could not commit genocide," Anatolian reported Erdogan as saying.

The ICC indicted Bashir in March on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but stopped short of including a charge of genocide. The U.N. says as many as 300,000 people have been killed since conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003, although Sudan rejects that figure.

 

FRAUGHT TIES

Erdogan's comments could further damage Turkey's already fraught ties with Israel, which have deteriorated since Israel's offensive earlier this year in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

Turkey, which has deepened economic ties with Sudan, has not ratified the statute that established the ICC and had said it had no plans to arrest Bashir.

The mainly Muslim country, which is seeking EU membership, had come under pressure from Brussels and international human rights groups to drop Bashir from the guest list.

Campaigning group Human Rights Watch had said that NATO member Turkey's international image would "plummet" if Ankara did not bar Bashir's entry.

Bashir has travelled to African countries since his arrest warrant was issued by the ICC in March.

Iran's anti-American President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose country is engaged in a standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme, arrived in Istanbul on Sunday to attend the one-day OIC meeting.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in his first trip abroad since his re-election was announced this week following a fraud-marred ballot, also arrived earlier on Sunday and held bilateral talks with Turkey's President Abdullah Gul.

Western powers are seeking to exert pressure on Tehran for concessions on its nuclear programme, and Ahmadinejad could use the summit to undermine efforts to isolate the Islamic republic.

Date created : 2009-11-08

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