al-Bashir visit no help to Zim

HARARE - President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, indicted by the International criminal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, has arrived in Zimbabwe for a regional economic summit, state radio reported.

HARARE - President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, indicted by the International criminal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, has arrived in Zimbabwe for a regional economic summit, state radio reported.

Al-Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the international human rights court, paid a courtesy call late Saturday on President Robert Mugabe, host of the two-day Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa meeting in the northwestern resort town of Victoria Falls, the radio said yesterday.

Zimbabwe is not among the 108 countries that have ratified the statute creating the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Ratifying nations would be required to arrest al-Bashir.

Welcoming al-Bashir was likely to earn Zimbabwe praise from African and Arab nations that have condemned the indictment of the Sudanese leader. But it won't help Zimbabwe's attempts to re-engage with Western leaders.

Al-Bashir has made a half dozen trips abroad, to Arab and African countries, since his indictment in March. In April he was in Ethiopia, headquarters of the African Union, which has said al-Bashir's arrest would dangerously imperil the fragile peace process in Sudan and has asked the UN to defer the warrant for one year. The Arab League has rejected the indictment.

The ICC charges stem from al-Bashir's Arab-led government's six-year battle with ethnic African rebels in Sudan's Darfur region. About 300000 people have died in fighting and 2,7million displaced, according to UN figures. Sudan says the numbers are exaggerated.

At the summit al-Bashir was attending in Zimbabwe, leaders from 19 nations will consider aid and investment proposals for Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's closest neighbours have failed to agree on a funding package for the coalition government formed in February between Mugabe and former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister in the new government.

Tsvangirai left Harare on Saturday on a three-week trip to Europe and the US to meet with Western leaders in efforts to end a decade of Western isolation and re-engage with traditional donors and investors.

Tsvangirai told reporters on his departure from Harare he is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington, state radio said. - Sapa-AP

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