Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Malawi on Thursday for a regional trade summit, in defiance of the international war crimes warrant against him.
Bashir and his 26-member delegation were welcomed with traditional dances and an honour guard of Malawi soldiers, even though the southern African nation has a treaty obligation to arrest him over war crimes committed in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
A foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Malawi would not arrest the Sudanese president.
"Why? He is here as a friend of President Bingu wa Mutharika," Mutharika said, asking not to be named.
Bashir will attend the annual summit of the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which opens Friday in Malawi's capital Lilongwe.
Bashir did not speak to reporters but was rushed to a hotel in downtown Lilongwe.
Bashir is the first sitting president indicted by the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Malawi has ratified the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding document, which obliges the country to arrest him if Bashir enters the country.
But Mutharika said in March that African leaders should not be dragged to The Hague for crimes committed in Africa.
Other leaders expected at the summit are Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Eritrea's Issaias Afeworki, Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza, and Swazi King Mswati III.