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Sudan calls meeting over 'genocide charge'

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  • International Criminal Court may seek arrest of Sudan's president
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Sudan has asked for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers ahead of the expected indictment of the country's president for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, according to reports.

Al-Bashir would be the first sitting president indicted by ICC for genocide.

The U.N. estimates 2.5 million have been forced from their homes in Darfur.

CNN revealed Friday that International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has scheduled a news conference Monday, just after he is expected to file the warrant with the court.

If the warrant is issued it would make Omar Hassan al-Bashir the first sitting president to be indicted by the ICC for genocide.

Arab League spokesman Abdel Aleem el-Abyad told The Associated Press Saturday that Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who is currently in Paris, was making phone calls to Arab foreign ministers to try to schedule a meeting.

The Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations told CNN Friday that the ICC had indicated to Sudanese officials that al-Bashir may be charged over the five-year campaign of violence in the country's Darfur region. Video Watch a tour of Darfur's deserted Northern Corridor »

"We have been hearing that this prosecutor is going to announce some names, possibly the leadership of the country, that will be indicted," said Adbalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad. "It is a criminal move that should be resisted by all."

Such an indictment, Mohamad said, would be a destabilizing move that would "take us back to square one." Sudan, he said, is "condemning it in the strongest possible terms" and urged the international community to do likewise. "We will resist it by all possible legal means," he said. Video Watch actress and Darfur activist Mia Farrow speak on the issue »

The prosecutor said in a progress report last month to the Security Council that Sudan's "whole state apparatus" had been mobilized "to plan, commit, and cover up crimes" in Darfur. Video Watch how some are concerned by the move »

"For the last five years, the whole Darfur area has been a crime scene," Moreno-Ocampo said last month.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when Darfurians rebelled against the central government over its alleged favoritism to Arabs over Africans.

The government in Khartoum fought back allegedly unleashing the janjaweed militia to quell the uprising -- a claim the government denies.

The authorities armed and cooperated with Arab militias that went from village to village in Darfur, killing, torturing and raping residents there, according to the United Nations, western governments and human rights organizations. Militias targeted civilian members of the tribes from which the African rebels draw strength.

Human rights groups blame the janjaweed for most atrocities, including the use of rape as a weapon of war.

Meanwhile, the chief U.N. humanitarian coordinator said aid workers are preparing for the effects of an indictment.

"We are taking precautions to make sure that people are aware of the risks and what we need to maintain our operations at the same time," said John Holmes. "We're taking sensible precautions hoping nothing will happen, because humanitarian aid should continue whatever the political situation, whatever the political arguments."

The U.N. estimates that some 300,000 people have died in the conflict and more than 2.5 million have been forced from their homes since 2003.

Sudanese officials say only 10,000 have died in the fighting and have rejected claims from the U.S. and others that genocide is taking place.

Witnesses who spoke to CNN Correspondent Nic Robertson in May said that just four months ago, government airplanes and helicopters attacked defenseless civilians in their Darfur villages.

They said the government struck in coordination with militiamen riding horses and camels -- a classic pattern that has unfolded around Darfur. More than 115 people were killed in that attack, they said, and nearly 58,000 people fled.

In 2005, the Security Council cleared the way for possible Darfur war crime prosecutions by the ICC, a permanent tribunal set up to handle cases related to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The court is based on a treaty signed by 106 nations -- excluding Sudan.

Once the court indicts someone, authorities in that person's native country -- or the country in which the indicted person is located -- have the power to detain the indicted person for trial at the Hague.

The ICC has already indicted two men for Darfur crimes -- one a government official and the other a militia leader.

The cases are against Ali Kushayb, a militia leader, and Ahmad Harun, former minister of state for the interior in Sudan, who is now in charge of humanitarian affairs for the Sudanese government. Both face charges accusing them of murder, rape, forced displacement and other offenses in Darfur.

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An arrest warrant for Harun charges that he was involved in the murder, rape, torture and forced displacement of civilians. The court also says he encouraged such illegal acts in public speeches during his tenure as minister of state for the interior.

The criminal court says Kushayb led several thousand militia members and personally participated in attacks against civilians. An arrest warrant outlines numerous cases of murder, rape and inhumane acts.

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