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Prosecuting Bashir won t help Darfur, PM says

LONDON, July 20 – Prosecuting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur is not going to end the conflict, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in an interview with BBC television Sunday.

"I think that, basically, to try to exonerate people here and there or to appropriate blame is not going to resolve the issue of Darfur," he told the broadcaster from Nairobi when asked about his view of the move.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was asked last Monday for Bashir to be arrested on genocide charges. If granted, the arrest warrant would be the first issued by the court against a sitting head of state.

The request, from ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has prompted criticism, notably from the Arab League, some of whose members have said it threatens the prospects for peace in the troubled western Sudanese region.

Leaders of the African Union have also warned that indicting Bashir could lead to a power vacuum in Sudan, increasing the risk of military coups and even anarchy, scuppering efforts to resolve the situation.

Odinga said: "So many lives have been lost in Darfur."I think it’s necessary for the African Union to be much more proactive on this issue, to lead the way, so that the rest of the international community supports the initiative of the African Union."

On Zimbabwe, Odinga said efforts to resolve the crisis facing that country are close to making progress.

The PM revealed that Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the opposition are close to agreeing the framework for talks on the country’s political crisis.

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Odinga, who spoke to Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday, said the framework would be signed this week.

Tsvangirai said he was ready to meet President Robert Mugabe if preliminary talks went well, Odinga said.

The opposition has refused to recognize Mugabe’s re-election last month.

He won a run-off in which he was the only candidate, and which was marred by political violence.

The framework, a memorandum of understanding setting out the conditions for talks on a possible power-sharing agreement, was expected to be signed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai last week.

But  Tsvangirai did not sign, insisting that his demands had not yet been met.

His party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had identified South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki – the lead negotiator in the talks – as a key problem.

They accused him of being biased in favour of Mugabe, and Tsvangirai had asked for another envoy to join the talks.

It was later announced that a group of senior diplomats, drawn from the UN, African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), would help Mbeki – a move welcomed by Tsvangirai.

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Tsvangarai’s team was going to Pretoria for preliminary talks, and "depending on how they progress, he’s willing to go to Pretoria for talks with Mugabe", he added.

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