An African Union (AU) panel led by South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki said it had not taken a stance on an international court’s indictment of Sudanese officials including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Fighting between the government, its allies and a myriad of rebel groups in Sudan’s western region has claimed as many as 300,000 people, according to the United Nations, but Khartoum says only 10,000 have died since clashes broke out in 2003.

“The panel has not taken a position whether or not the intervention of the (International Criminal Court) in Sudan or the arrest warrants the court has issued are appropriate,” it said in a statement.

The ICC has indicted Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.

He has dismissed the allegations as part of a Western conspiracy, and the AU has sought a deferment of the indictment, saying it has complicated peace efforts in Darfur.

An AU summit in Libya last week voted to suspend cooperation with ICC in the matter.

Mbeki told reporters on Friday that his panel of eight eminent Africans had consulted widely inside and outside Sudan.

“The consensus reached is that those charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity should appear in court and defend themselves,” he said. “The warrant has been issued. There is nothing that can be done.”



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