Sudan’s President has defied an international arrest warrant to take part in the annual Arab League summit in Qatar.
Speaking at the opening, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of masterminding war crimes in Darfur, urged Arab leaders to strongly reject his indictment. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon replied by calling on Sudan to reverse its decision to expel 13 aid groups from Darfur, a measure taken in response to the International Criminal Court warrant. That drew an accusation of double standards from the Sudanese leader. “Those who have committed massacres and atrocities in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon should be arrested first,” said al-Bashir. Reconciliation is the main aim of this year’s summit and with that in mind Libya’s effort to extend an olive branch to Saudi Arabia was greeted with applause after being initially taken for a renewed attack. However there is unlikely to be agreement over anything else. The 22-member Arab League remains deeply divided over ties with non-Arab Iran. Qatar, for one, has close links with Tehran, which continues to support Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and Hizbollah in Lebanon. Qatar’s attempts to rally Arabs have healed some rifts but the absence of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak suggests a unified position is still some way off.