NDJAMENA, Chad, July 22 (UPI) -- Chad's president brushed off suggestions that authorities would arrest visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, suspected of war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
President Idriss Deby warmly greeted al-Bashir when he arrived in the Chadian capital Ndjamena to attend a meeting of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.
Al-Bashir's attendance at the conference is the first time he has left Sudan since the ICC indicted him in 2009. He denies all charges that relate to the long-running civil war within his divided country.
The United Nations estimates around 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the seven years of conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000 and says the problems in the region have been exaggerated for political reasons often by western organizations.
Earlier this month the African Union issued a statement heavily criticizing the ICC for unfairly targeting African states, further hampering peace processes carried on by African government and insurgents.
A big problem for many peace processes are relations between neighboring countries because rebels often operate out of them, either with the blessing or not of the national government.
Al-Bashir's visit to Chad is part of a fence-mending strategy because the two countries have clashed openly over Darfur.
"Chad and Sudan had a problem in the past. Now this problem is solved. We are brothers," al-Bashir said. "We are in a new phase of the history of our two countries, in the interests of our two peoples."
Chad recognizes the ICC, which sits in The Hague. But along with many African states also is highly critical of the court.
A Chadian minister said Chad was a sovereign state which didn't depend on the injunctions of international organizations.
Even so, "Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbor a suspected war criminal from the court," Elise Keppler, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, said.
Amnesty International also wants Chad to arrest al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir denies the charges and this weekend is to be in Kampala, capital of Sudan's southern neighbor Uganda, to attend the 9-day African Union summit.
But al-Bashir may change his plans at the last minute because of statement's last week by Henry Oryem Okello, Uganda's minister for international affairs.
After a meeting with the ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, in Kampala, Okello said "it is a legal obligation for Uganda to arrest al-Bashir if he comes to Uganda."
While Uganda also signed the AU statement criticizing the ICC, it needs to have good relations with the court, mainly because the government finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place regarding its own rebel insurgency and the ICC.
Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, leader of the notorious Lord's Resistance Army, has waged a vicious 20-year insurgency in the northern part of the country. But he went to ground four years ago and the ICC has indicted him war crimes.
The Ugandan government wants to arrest him but likely will have to do a deal with him and also the ICC.
Before he surfaces, Kony wants clarification on how the government will address the ICC charges of atrocities against him and other rebels.
If Kony signs a peace deal, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said he will request that the ICC drops the charges.
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