24 February 2013

Sudan Defense Minister in Saudi Arabia Despite ICC Warrant

Khartoum — The Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein met today in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia's crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the state media reported.

Saudi official news agency (SPA) said the two officials reviewed the bilateral relations between the two countries, ways to enhance them and the latest developments at Arab and international arenas.

Sudan army spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad was quoted by the country's news agency (SUNA) as saying that the two sides discussed military cooperation following the conclusion of joint naval exercise this week.

The purpose of the drill was said to be enhancing abilities of naval forces in Saudi Arabia and Sudan to combat piracy and smuggling.

Relations between Khartoum and Riyadh have been strained lately over Sudan's close ties with Iran.

Khartoum twice allowed Iranian warships last year to dock in Port Sudan drawing concern of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Last November the Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper in its editorial titled

"The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan" blasted Khartoum over the Iranian warships saying there is no "logical justification" for relationship between the two countries.

The previously unannounced visit by Hussein marks one of the few times he has travelled abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him last year on 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 counts of war crimes allegedly committed during the years 2003-2004 in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

Since the warrant Hussein has became more discreet in his foreign trips and his office has not been making his travel plans known in advance.

The defense minister has made trips to Libya, Ethiopia and South Sudan since the warrant, none of which are members of the court.

Saudi Arabia is also not a signatory to the ICC's statute and therefore has no obligation to apprehend Hussein.

However in 2007 the ICC revealed that Saudi Arabia was aware of a plan aimed at nabbing then Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs Ahmed Haroun on his way to Mecca for pilgrimage.

Haroun ended up cancelling his travel plans.

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