Egypt welcomes Sudanese president
CAIRO - Egypt, one of the strongest US allies on the Middle East, welcomed Sudan's president yesterday despite an international warrant seeking his arrest on charges of war crimes in Darfur.
Omar Al Bashir, Sudan's wanted leader, was making his first high-profile journey abroad since the warrant was issued March 4 by the International Criminal Court. He was emboldened by the 22-nation Arab League's decision not to act on the warrant, even though three of its member countries are signatories to the court's founding treaty.
Bashir is also planning to attend an Arab summit in Qatar at the end of the month, though its prime minister says the country is under pressure not to host him.
The visit to Egypt was another show of defiance by Bashir, who responded swiftly to the arrest warrant by expelling 13 international aid groups from Darfur, exposing hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the six-year conflict to an even greater humanitarian crisis.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt received Bashir at Cairo's airport along with senior government ministers in a show of solidarity with the Sudanese leader that drew criticism from rights groups. The two leaders discussed the search for a resolution to the Darfur conflict.
The criminal court charged Bashir with leading a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels involving rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians.