Al-Bashir Defiant Despite Indictment

AL-FASHER, Sudan -- Sudan's president said Wednesday that he would not be cowed by his indictment on genocide charges nor allow it to distract him from the search for peace in Darfur.

Addressing supporters in Darfur's capital of al-Fasher, a defiant Omar al-Bashir also sought to cast himself as a peacemaker and discount the significance of his July 14 indictment by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor.

Al-Bashir said it was an attempt to foil his government's efforts to restore peace in Darfur. And he said Sudan would not be cowed by the threat of sanctions either.

"We will only bow to God, who is the sole provider," he told a cheering crowd of some 3,000.

Without mentioning prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo by name, al-Bashir said, "Every time we take a step forward, make progress and signs of peace emerge, those people try to mess it up, return us to square one and distract us with marginal issues and false allegations."

Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges against al-Bashir for masterminding a campaign of extermination and rape specifically targeting three Darfur tribes. The UN says about 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been uprooted over the past five years.

The charges include three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes. Moreno-Ocampo also sought an arrest warrant for al-Bashir, but it will be months before a panel of judges decides on the request.

Al-Bashir's relatively restrained comments came one day after a presidential adviser warned that aid workers and peacekeepers might not be safe in Darfur if an arrest warrant is issued for al-Bashir.