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War crimes charges rattle Sudan

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"It's too strong to say the National Congress Party is plotting against Bashir. But people are pondering ways out," said another Western diplomat, who requested anonymity. According to this diplomat, influential members of the ruling party – namely Taha and Nafie – are debating whether they should, in the case of an indictment, offer Bashir up to the ICC. For his part, Bashir is debating whether he could simply place them under house arrest and rule with the support of the military.

Could an arrest warrant trigger war?

A larger concern is the effect the indictment would have on the 2005 peace deal that put an end to more than two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan. That war killed close to 10 times the number of people who are estimated to have died in Darfur and threatens to restart at any time.

The deal calls for elections in 2009 and a referendum for southern secession in 2011, but those timelines – ambitious to begin with – will be even more difficult to meet in the case of an ICC indictment.

"The problem we have here in South Sudan is what would happen to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement if Bashir is charged by the court?" Salva Kiir, Sudan's vice president and president of the now semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan, was quoted as saying in the local press. "What about the outstanding items in the peace agreement? Will they be implemented afterwards?"

In November, Edmond Mulet, UN assistant secretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council the warrant could derail the north-south peace process and said he was "concerned by suggestions of an uncontrolled reaction to an indictment by the population against the [UN peacekeeping] mission."

Another concern among many expatriates is an outburst of violence or attacks against them following an ICC indictment.

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