The appearance of Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir at an Arab summit on Monday, flouting an international arrest warrant, overshadowed efforts to heal Arab rifts over how to handle Iran.

Bashir flew into the small Gulf Arab state on Sunday after visits to Egypt, Eritrea and Libya in the weeks since the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted him on charges of masterminding war crimes in Darfur.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the summit on Monday, Bashir urged Arab leaders meeting in Doha to reject the indictment and accused Israel of backing rebels in Darfur.

“We appreciate your support and hope it will lead to strong and clear resolutions …. that reject this resolution and call for its cancellation,” he said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on the summit to express unequivocal support for Bashir.

“We are called upon today to reject the warrant categorically and to express absolute support for Sudan at this stage,” he said. “What is happening to Sudan now is another chapter in the effort to weaken the Arabs … and another stage in the effort to break up Sudan.”

Arab states were quick to rally around Bashir last month. Some cited the absence of international measures against Israel over its three-week war on Gaza that killed 1,300 Palestinians. Arabs generally see a double-standard applied.

But after the demise of Saddam Hussein, international justice for Sudan’s leader would be another cause for concern for Arab leaders accused by rights groups of repression



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