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Sudanese leader not invited to African Union Conference, Uganda says

From Samson Ntale, For CNN
  • Other Sudanese officials will represent the country at the conference, Uganda leader says
  • Decision came after an AU committee's findings concurred with an indictment against Omar al-Bashir
  • Officials say al-Bashir's arrest for alleged war crimes is a matter of time
  • Ugandan rebel leader is also being sought on similar charges

(CNN) -- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has not been invited to attend the African Union Conference in Uganda next month as he faces charges for alleged war crimes in Sudan's restive Darfur region, Ugandan officials said Sunday.

"Sudan will be represented by other government officials but not President al-Bashir," Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told International Criminal Court President Sang Hyun Song in a private meeting Saturday, according to a statement issued by Museveni's office.

The decision to exclude al-Bashir from the conference was made after an AU committee investigating the alleged crimes said it is in agreement with an ICC indictment against al-Bashir, according to Mirundi spokesman Joseph Tamale Mirundi.

"Uganda has not invited al-Bashir because the findings of (the) AU select committee headed by former South African leader, Thabo Mbeki, do not differ with that of the ICC," Mirundi said Sunday.

Sudan rejected Uganda's statement Sunday, saying that al-Bashir's "attendance is not a matter that belongs to the Ugandan government," according to the state-run Ashorooq news network.

"Sudan is an AU member and it is Sudan that determines who will represent it; and it will not accept under any condition (or) any suggestion from Uganda regarding this matter," Ashorooq quoted Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mouawaya Osman as saying.

Osman also called for Uganda to withdraw its statement and apologize to the Sudanese people, saying that if the country does not comply, "we will request for the summit to be moved to a capital that will be able to host all of the leaders without submitting to foreign pressures."

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said last week that despite the delayed executions of arrest warrants for al-Bashir and Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony -- also indicted for multiple crimes -- he is optimistic that the apprehension of the two men is a matter of time.

"The arrest warrants have effectively isolated al-Bashir, a development that paves the way for his arrest," Ocampo told journalists on the sidelines of the ongoing ICC Review conference Tuesday.

"The court process can wait but the victims are waiting for justice," he said. "If you arrest these people you have a deterrent effect, hence stopping impunity."

"We are discussing an arrest operation that can go well with careful planning and execution," Ocampo added.

He said, however, that the delayed capture of the men has failed to bring justice to their alleged victims, citing the example of Kony's rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, whose followers are said to have killed 2,000 and displaced 300,000 others in northeastern Congo and the Central African Republic.

Uganda and the Central African Republic, he added, have the political will to arrest Kony, but are unable to implement it.

Ocampo also revealed that he will tell the United Nations Security Council next week that ICC judges have ruled that Sudan is not cooperating with a Security Council resolution to arrest al-Bashir and Kony.

Meanwhile, Museveni told Song and his delegation Saturday that although Kony is still on the run, Uganda's focus is on his capture, according to the statement.

"Our main objective now is to arrest him (Kony), degrade his forces and rescue the abductees still in his hands," he said.

He revealed that 352 former abductees have been rescued, 118 lost their lives and 58 rebels have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 352 weapons recovered from the rebels since the commencement of the operation in 2008.

Commenting on fears by some African countries toward the ICC, Museveni said there is confusion from some circles that is sending negative messages.

"Some people think that the ICC is against all wars," he said, noting that more than 30 African countries are members of the court.

Museveni noted that not all wars lead to war crimes. These, he said, include wars of freedom and liberation.

"You can fight a justified war without killing people," he said.

"It is only where innocent people are deliberately targeted," Museveni told Song, adding, "this needs to be clearly explained to African countries to stem skepticism over the operations of the ICC."