Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sudan May Not Attend Africa-EU Summit in Libya

Sudan boycotts EU-Africa summit over Bashir row

By Claire Rosemberg (AFP)

TRIPOLI — Sudan, whose President Omar al-Bashir faces an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, is to boycott this week's Africa-EU summit in Libya, his foreign minister announced on Sunday.

"Mr Bashir will not attend" the summit being held in Tripoli on Monday and Tuesday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti said.

"We are therefore pulling out and will not be represented at any level," Karti told reporters following a meeting of African foreign ministers preparing for the summit.

The minister, who walked out of the closed-door meeting after announcing Khartoum's decision, added that Bashir's no-show was "to avoid embarrassment to Libya," which is hosting the gathering of 80 nations.

The minister said the decision was taken "under pressure from Europe" and that he had received instructions to pull out of the pre-summit ministerial talks.

African Union commission president Jean Ping said at the close of the talks that the Sudanese minister had been "absolutely limpid and clear."

"He deplored certain attitudes and notified us that President Bashir will not come."

EU diplomats told AFP in the weeks leading up to the summit that they had asked for assurances that Bashir would not attend.

But reports on Saturday that he planned to fly to Tripoli caused a diplomatic flurry on both continents.

Speaking in Khartoum after meeting the Sudanese leader, South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday that Bashir "has to go there for that summit which will be followed immediately by the summit meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union."

Bashir, in a statement received by AFP in Khartoum, accused European countries of "hypocrisy" for urging him to implement Sudan's 2005 north-south peace accord while at the same time trying to "undermine" his legitimacy.

Europe's stand was "an attack on the African Union and Sudan while also undermining the idea of real dialogue and cooperation between Africa and Europe," the Sudanese leader said.

Bashir was indicted in March 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in July 2010 on charges of genocide, linked to atrocities committed by Khartoum's forces in Darfur.

The western region of Sudan has been gripped by a civil war since 2003 that has killed 300,000 people and displaced another 2.7 million, according to UN figures. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000 people.

The Sudanese leader attended an official ceremony in Nairobi in August, unleashing a barrage of criticism from rights groups.

The summit in Tripoli, the first between the two continents in three years, aims to throw off the burden of colonial history to forge a new partnership of equality between Europe and Africa.

It is expected to focus on speeding up growth, jobs and investment in the post-crisis climate in hopes of warming up inter-continental ties. But differences over trade and immigration are likely to cloud the talks.

Africa's leading aid donor, the European Union remains its top trading partner but risks being elbowed aside as Brazil, India and other emerging giants join China in chasing the spoils of the resource-rich continent.

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