Sudan leader to face war crimes charges

U.N. officials and diplomats said the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will seek an arrest warrant Monday charging Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said the prosecutor will present evidence of the war crimes in Darfur to judges Monday and one or more new suspects will be named. But court officials refused Friday to identify any of the potential new suspects.

The U.N. officials and diplomats said they expect lesser charges of helping orchestrate genocide and participating in crimes against humanity to be brought against Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A spokesman for Sudan's president dismissed the investigation and said his government refuses to hand over any suspects.

Sudan's ambassador to the U.N., Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, warned that issuing arrest warrants for government leaders would be “a criminal move.”

“We condemn it in the strongest of terms. It will have far-reaching, bad implications for the entire country, and all options are open for our reactions,” he told The Associated Press. “If you indict our head of state, the symbol of our country, the symbol of our dignity, then the sky's the limit for our reactions.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack warned the Sudanese government not to resort to violence.

The court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, has clearly indicated that he is aiming for the top of the Sudanese government, accusing its members of sponsoring the janjaweed militias that have terrorized the country's Darfur region. Up to 300,000 people have died since the conflict began in early 2003.

The court in The Hague is the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. An indictment of al-Bashir would mark the first time the tribunal has charged a sitting head of state with war crimes.

Threats to the peacekeepers were underscored this week by an ambush that killed seven and injured 19, one of the deadliest attacks on U.N. forces in recent years.

AP reporters Mike Corder and Matthew Lee contributed.