Sudan said on Monday it expected African ministers meeting in Ethiopia to condemn the International Criminal Court's (ICC) move to indict President Omar Hassan al-Bashir over allegedly war crimes in Darfur.
The meeting is an important step in Sudan's diplomatic campaign. The Arab League has already criticised the court and its head, Amr Moussa, is in Khartoum for talks on a plan to resolve the crisis.
"We expect the African Union's solidarity and condemnation of the indictment," Sudanese Foreign Ministry official Mutrif Siddig said in Addis Ababa ahead of the meeting.
The international court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has asked for a warrant for Bashir over allegedly war crimes in Darfur.
African Union sources told Reuters the meeting in Addis Ababa, requested by Sudan, was likely to urge the U.N. Security Council to seek a suspension of the warrant for 12 months, which can then be renewed.
The African Union's role is key because the U.N. resolution which referred Darfur to the international court in 2005 emphasised the need for support of the bloc. Current AU chair Tanzania has already urged the court to suspend moves to arrest Bashir.
Bashir's top officials have been touring regional capitals to drum up support.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said on Monday after meeting Sudanese envoys that Bashir should not be "subjected to legal recourse in courts that may not have an understanding of the conflict."
Street protests against the court have been held almost daily in Sudan, but they have been small and without the heavy government backing evident at some past demonstrations. A "million man march" planned on Monday was cancelled.
"We have made it very clear we are going to pursue a diplomatic campaign, a diplomatic counter attack to explain our position," said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali al-Sadig.
"Although we are keen for justice we must have a balance between justice and stability," he added.
Sudan, whose economy is growing rapidly thanks to an oil boom, has described U.N. moves to raise security, evacuate staff families and withdraw non-essential personnel as an overreaction.
Sudanese opposition parties are among those voicing concern at the international court's move. They fear a warrant could prevent next year's election, planned as the first democratic vote in 23 years.
Aid agencies taking part in the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur fear a longer-term security deterioration.
Last Mod: 21 Temmuz 2008, 15:26