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'No question' of Chad arresting Sudan President Bashir


Chad's government has said there can be no question of the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, being arrested during his current visit to the country.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said Mr Bashir should be detained on charges of genocide and war crimes.

Chad recognises the ICC, but a minister insisted that it was a sovereign state which did not depend on the injunctions of international organisations.

Mr Bashir, who denies the charges, is attending a meeting of a regional bloc.

It is the first time he has set foot in a country which is an ICC member since he was first indicted in 2009.

The charges relate to the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, which the UN estimates has cost the lives of 300,000 people and displaced a further 2.7 million.

The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000 and says the problems in the region have been exaggerated for political reasons.

'Opportunity for justice'
Mr Bashir was greeted warmly by President Idriss Deby on arrival in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena, on Wednesday ahead of the meeting of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (Censad).

Speaking to reporters, Sudan's leader seemed more focused on improvements in relations between the two neighbours, which have often clashed bitterly over Darfur, than on the possibility of his incarceration.

"Chad and Sudan had a problem in the past. Now this problem is solved. We are brothers," he said. "We are in a new phase of the history of our two countries, in the interests of our two peoples."

Sudan once accused Ndjamena of supporting anti-government rebels in Darfur, while Chad said Khartoum was backing rebels attempting to overthrow Mr Deby.

An ICC spokesman said Chad was obliged to implement its judges' decisions and co-operate with the request for Mr Bashir to be arrested.

But Chad's Interior and Security Minister, Ahmat Mahamat Bachir, insisted the president would be allowed to return home unmolested.

"What country has ever arrested a sitting head of state? Bashir won't be arrested in Chad," he told the AFP news agency.

"Chad is a sovereign and independent state... We are not dependent on the injunctions of international organisations."

Sudanese government spokesman Rabie Abdel Attie said the two countries' relations were more important than the fact Chad was a party to the ICC.

"I don't think Chad will do anything to harm the president. There is an agreement to end hostilities," he told the Associated Press.

Human rights organisations condemned the Chadian authorities.

"Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbour a suspected war criminal from the court," said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International also called on Chad not to shield Mr Bashir and said the visit was an opportunity for justice.

BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the next decision for Mr Bashir is whether to attend this weekend's African Union summit in Uganda.

The African Union has accused the ICC of targeting the continent and recommended its members do not co-operate, but like Chad, Uganda is a signatory of the court.

Relations between Sudan and Uganda have blown hot and cold so often that Mr Bashir may well decide not to ride his luck and instead head home, our correspondent says.