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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sudan's Bashir offers help to Libya during criticised visit

Bashir has said that Sudan provided weapons to the rebels who overthrew Kadhafi (AFP/File, Ashraf Shazly) Khartoum’s relationship with Kadhafi’s Libya was uneasy (AFP, Mahmud Turkia) TRIPOLI — Moamer Kadhafi caused great suffering among the Sudanese people, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir said on Saturday on his first visit to Libya since Kadhafi was overthrown and killed. Wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and war crimes in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, Bashir said that after Libya, Kadhafi inflicted the most damage in Sudan, the official WAL news agency reported. “We all suffered from the old regime… We (the Sudanese) were the second to have suffered the most, after the Libyan people,” Bashir told the news agency. Upon arrival in Tripoli, the Sudanese leader was met by Libya’s Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), and members of the interim government, an AFP photographer reported. Bashir, who claims that Sudan provided weapons to help oust Kadhafi, said the visit felt “like it was the first time,” adding that he came to underline Sudan’s support for the Libyan people and the country’s new government that took charge after Kadhafi’s four-decade dictatorship fell. Khartoum’s relationship with Kadhafi’s Libya was uneasy. The former Libyan leader poured arms across the border into Darfur and long sought greater influence in Sudan’s ravaged western region. Bashir has claimed that a deadly 2008 attack on Khartoum by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the most heavily-armed Darfur rebel group, was financed by the Libyan government and fought with Libyan weapons. In 2010, Kadhafi’s regime offered sanctuary to JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, who was killed in Sudan last month after his return to the country. Libya’s presence was felt in a different way in the capital Khartoum, where state-run Lafico, the Libyan Foreign Investment Company, spent 130 million euros (190 million dollars) building the Burj al-Fateh Hotel, which opened in 2008. With its egg-shaped design, Sudan’s flashiest accommodation became a city landmark. Kadhafi was killed on October 20 when rebels seized his last bastion. He was wanted by the Hague-based ICC for suspected crimes against humanity committed during his attempted suppression of the revolt that started last February. The ICC also issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009, for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur, with genocide subsequently added to the list of charges. Court spokesman Fadi el-Abdallah declined to comment on Bashir being welcomed in Libya, when contacted AFP. During his two-day visit, Bashir will hold talks with the NTC on “issues of mutual interest”, Sudan’s official SUNA news agency reported earlier Saturday.

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