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Sudan's Bashir leaves Nigeria, ICC calls for arrest

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir walks out of a hotel in Abuja July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir walks out of a hotel in Abuja July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

ABUJA (Reuters) - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has left Nigeria, where his presence at an African Union HIV/AIDS summit defied International Criminal Court (ICC) calls for his arrest on charges of genocide and war crimes, officials said on Tuesday.

His press secretary and Nigerian hosts both denied reports in the local media that he had left early fearing arrest.

Monday was the main day of the two-day summit. Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, chairman of the African Union, was the only leader who was at a breakfast for them at the presidency on Tuesday morning, an official there said.

But Nigeria's presidency said two others, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, had also stayed on for the second day.

"President Bashir returned normally to Khartoum after participating in the summit in Abuja to resume his work in Khartoum," his press secretary Emad Said told Reuters.

Bashir, who is accused of orchestrating genocide and other crimes during the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region in which some 200,000 people were killed, arrived in Nigeria on Sunday, to the chagrin of human rights campaigners.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and the British government both expressed dismay at the decision to let him in, and a local activist group filed a court petition demanding his arrest, in line with Nigeria's obligations under the ICC treaty.

Sudan's Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to negative comments from Britain's Africa Minister Mark Simmonds.

In a statement, the ministry suggested Britain was being hypocritical because of its participation in the Iraq war.

"Britain participated in the Iraq invasion after it had manipulated the domestic and international opinion with reasons it knew were lies. Iraq, our friend, still suffers from the destruction," the ministry said.

The ICC's pre-trial chamber said on Tuesday it had asked Nigeria to arrest Bashir and hand him to the ICC the day before.

The African Union voted in 2009 not to cooperate with the ICC indictments against Bashir. Nigeria's presidency says its decision to allow him in was in keeping with that decision.

African enthusiasm for the court has waned over the years, partly owing to a perception that prosecutors disproportionately target African leaders, a charge the ICC denies.

(Fixes paragraphs 3-4 to show summit lasted two days, not one, and make clear other leaders remained)

(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Additional reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Tim Cocks in Lagos; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alison Williams)

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