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Bashir Cancels Visit to Istanbul

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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court, has pulled out of an Islamic summit in Istanbul, officials say.

The Turkish government had previously welcomed the attendance of President Bashir at the meeting and said that he would not be arrested.

But the EU, which Turkey hopes to join, wanted the invitation to be withdrawn.

Sudan’s state-run Suna news agency said “new developments” had required Mr Bashir’s presence in Sudan.

Mr Bashir was in Egypt on Sunday, taking part in a China-Africa summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

He was due in Istanbul on Monday for the summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

But Suna said he was returning to Khartoum to “find a solution” to a dispute between his ruling National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Mr Bashir has visited several African countries since the ICC issued the warrant for his arrest in March, saying he was responsible for atrocities in Darfur.

He has denied the accusations.

Turkey has pointed out it is not a signatory to the treaty which set up the Hague-based ICC.

Officials also say Mr Bashir was invited by the OIC and not Ankara.

But Turkey, which is seeking EU membership, had come under pressure from Brussels to drop Mr Bashir from the guest list.

“The Sudanese see and understand well the difficulties,” an unnamed senior Turkish diplomat told AFP news agency.

Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned the charges against Mr Bashir and said that “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide”, according to Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.

“If there was such a thing (a genocide), we could talk about it face to face with President Bashir,” he was quoted as saying.

The ICC arrest warrant accuses Mr Bashir of running a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through a “slow death” and of forcing 2.5 million to flee their homes in Darfur.

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