Sudan said on Tuesday it was looking at how to get an international Darfur war crimes arrest warrant against its president either quashed or suspended, the first sign it may engage over the issue.
Any such move from the government appears to clash with a series of increasingly defiant statements from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir pouring scorn on the West and refusing to deal with the International Criminal Court.
International experts say at least 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur, a mainly desert region in western Sudan, while Khartoum says 10,000 have died. The conflict began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ali Al-Sadig told Reuters officials may now refer the warrant, issued last week, to the International Court of Justice and ask allies to push for a postponement of the case in the U.N. Security Council.
“There are some ideas being discussed. Maybe in the coming three or four days, things might come out very clearly,” Al-Sadig told Reuters.
He said officials were holding talks with China, Russia and Libya, all members of the U.N. Security Council who have spoken out against the warrant.
Some analysts say the warrant could spark more violence in Darfur, where peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of the conflict.
The International Court of Justice is a separate institution from the International Criminal Court, even though both are based in The Hague. One of its main jobs is to settle legal disputes given to it by United Nations member states.
Russia and China have advised Sudan that Western countries which stood firm against Khartoum in the build up to the arrest warrant might be open to negotiation after the ICC’s decision was made, he added.
“We are not going to campaign for an Article 16,” Al-Sadig added, referring to the part of the ICC’s statute that gives the Security Council the power to delay cases. “But if other people campaign on our behalf, that would be a different thing.”
Diplomats told Reuters last week Britain, France and the United States, the three Western permanent members of the Security Council, might eventually be persuaded to support a deferral if there was a significant improvement on the ground in Darfur and a return to serious peace talks.
Sudan’s government may be feeling increasingly isolated following what some analysts have seen as lukewarm expressions of support from Middle Eastern countries.
The decision by Khartoum to shut down 13 foreign and three local aid groups, accusing them of cooperating with the global court, sparked an international wave of protest.
Bashir defended his expulsion of the aid groups as he rallied supporters in Darfur on Sunday and government officials have said the decision is “irreversible”.
On Tuesday the U.S. embassy authorised the voluntary evacuation of non-essential staff. An official said the decision was partly a diplomatic move in reaction to Sudan’s expulsion of aid groups.