Sudan's Beshir cancels Turkey visit



KHARTOUM, Guillaume Lavallee - Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir, the target of an international arrest warrant, has scrapped a visit to Turkey to join key political negotiations in Khartoum, official SUNA news agency said on Sunday.
Beshir rang Turkish President Abdullah Gul to say he can not spare the time to attend a meeting on Monday of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Istanbul, SUNA said.



Sudan's Beshir cancels Turkey visit
The cancellation followed mounting speculation over Beshir's attendance at the economic summit of the Islamic grouping after the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, told the Ankara government it should bar or arrest him.
Sudan's leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.
Turkey has pointed out it is not a signatory to the treaty which set up the Hague-based ICC, and that Beshir was invited to the meeting by the OIC and not Ankara.
"The Sudanese see and understand well the difficulties," a high-ranking Turkish diplomat who requested anonymity told AFP ahead of the cancellation.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the Islamist-rooted ruling AKP party, questioned the charges against Beshir 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 Beshir," the first sitting national leader the ICC has indicted, said Erdogan.
Beshir was in Egypt on Sunday, taking part in a China-Africa summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Aides said last week that the president intended to travel to Turkey but no final decision had been taken.
SUNA said Beshir has to return to Khartoum to "find a solution" to a dispute between his ruling National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the former rebel party from south Sudan.
The two sides signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 after 22 years of north-south civil war that saw largely Christian and animist rebels pitted against the Khartoum government.
The parties held talks on Sunday in Khartoum on disputes over plans for a general election in April 2010 and a referendum in January 2011 on independence for the south, political sources said.
"Because of the need to consult the president in coming days on these issues, (he) has put off his journey to Turkey," SUNA said,
China as well as several African and Arab countries criticised the ICC when it announced the arrest warrant, and Beshir promptly received an invitation to Cairo from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Last year, Turkey came under fire for hosting Beshir twice, before the warrant was issued: a bilateral visit in January and then at multilateral cooperation talks with African leaders in August.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.
The Sudanese government disputes the death toll, saying 10,000 people died.
The OIC summit, set to address issues of trade and poverty, is expected to draw other Muslim leaders, including Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad and newly re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Istanbul for the OIC summit after Erdogan visited Tehran last month when the two countries signed partnerships on trade and energy.
Ankara's efforts to build closer ties in the Muslim world -- including Iran, Sudan and Syria -- that are at odds with the West have raised concerns in the West that Turkey, a NATO member, is turning toward the East.
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Monday, November 9th 2009
Guillaume Lavallee
           


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