Arrest warrant issued for Sudan's president

March 4, 2009 12:17:46 PM PST
The Obama administration called Wednesday for all parties to the Darfur conflict to exercise restraint after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on war crimes charges. The United States is not a member of the court, but the White House and the State Department said that anyone who has committed atrocities should be held accountable.

"As this process moves forward, we would urge restraint on the part of all parties, including the government of Sudan," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. "Further violence against civilians, Sudanese or foreign interests is to be avoided and won't be tolerated."

Gibbs declined to comment on whether President Barack Obama supported the issuance of the warrant, but the State Department said the indictment could help bring peace to the region.

"This can be a helpful step," State Department deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid said. "We will see how it proceeds from here."

Duguid urged all sides to cooperate with the court's decision and added that the United States, which has an embassy but not an ambassador in Khartoum, would review diplomatic contacts with Bashir in light of the ICC arrest warrant, the first issued against a sitting head of state.

"Because we take the court's actions very seriously, any official contacts with President Bashir would have to be carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis, very mindful of the indictment," Duguid said, noting that the United States believes "it is evident that the government of Sudan has the brunt of the responsibility for what has happened in Darfur."

The warrant accuses Bashir of committing war crimes against humanity. But a three-judge panel of The Hague-based international court also said there wasn't enough evidence to support charges of genocide.

The violence in Darfur has killed up to 300,000 people while nearly 2.7 million others have fled their homes.

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