- aid - Darfur - humanitarian action - Sudan
AFP- Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir lashed out at the West on Thursday over the arrest warrant which has split the world community and sparked fears of insecurity and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
Sudan reacted swiftly to the International Criminal Court decision to seek Beshir's arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity by ordering the expulsion of 10 foreign relief agencies, a move that could threaten aid to several hundred thousand vulnerable people.
Sudan's allies including a string of African and Arab states and China called for the suspension of the ICC warrant, warning it could undermine efforts to end the six-year conflict in Darfur.
Khartoum has vowed it will not cooperate with The Hague-based court which accuses Beshir of masterminding a campaign of extermination, rape and pillage in Darfur, one of the remotest areas on the planet.
And Beshir remained defiant on Thursday as thousands of angry Sudanese staged a mass demonstration in Khartoum, some setting ablaze American and Israeli flags and effigies of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
"The true criminals are the leaders of the United States and Europe," Beshir said, charging that bodies such as the ICC and the UN Security Council were the instruments of "neo-colonialism."
The 65-year-old who seized power in Africa's largest country in a coup 20 years ago became the first sitting president to be issued with an ICC arrest warrant, facing five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the European Union said Beshir must face justice, but analysts say there is little prospect of him being hauled before the court with world powers deeply divided over the warrant.
"President Beshir will have a chance to have his day in court if he believes that the indictment is wrongly charged. He can
certainly contest it," Clinton said.
Khartoum's allies were pushing for the warrant to suspended, with the African Union holding an emergency meeting on Thursday after voicing its "deep concern" at the ICC move.
Sudan called on fellow African states to withdraw from the ICC in protest.
China, which supplies military aid to Beshir's government and relies on Sudan for oil imports, expressed its "worry" over the ICC move.
Many Sudanese fear the warrant against Beshir could plunge Africa's largest country into further chaos, and aid agencies were already warning of the potential fallout of their expulsion.
Sudan ordered out 10 international aid agencies which provide essential aid to the estimated 2.7 million people made homeless by the war in Darfur, in the world's largest humanitarian operation.
The action -- which affects such major organisations as Oxfam and Medicins Sans Frontieres -- drew a swift response from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, but Sudan's humanitarian affairs chief warned that more could be expelled.
Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman accused the expelled agencies of collaborating with the ICC by sending "fabricated evidence... about genocide," and said others were under investigation.
Between 200-300 foreign staff are estimated to be affected by the expulsion orders, with one aid worker saying they were expecting to have to leave the country within 24 hours.
"If Oxfam's registration is revoked, it will affect more than 600,000 Sudanese people whom we provide with vital humanitarian and development aid, including clean water and sanitation on a daily basis," said its international director Penny Lawrence.
Doctors without Borders (MSF) warned the expulsions will have "terrible consequences."
Security has been beefed up around foreign embassies in Khartoum amid fears of reprisals and diplomats have also urged expatriates to avoid public places and stock up on essential supplies.
Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha warned the warrant could embolden rebels to attack.
"The decision of the ICC gives a negative message to the Darfur rebels that the government is under pressure so that they continue in their military operations," he said.
Security forces are reported to have beefed up their presence in Darfur, where the Sudanese military and air force "conducted a ground and aerial show of force" on Wednesday, according to the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID).
The Sudanese army broadcast a stark warning on state radio against anyone trying to exploit the court decision and world leaders have called for restraint.
"Further violence against civilian Sudanese or foreign interests is to be avoided and won't be tolerated," President Barack Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The Justice and Equality Movement, the most active Darfur rebel group which last month sign a deal with Khartoum to pave the way for broader peace talks, said it would not longer negotiate and that it was time to "get rid of Beshir".