Bashir takes responsibility for Darfur conflict
Sudan's president on Wednesday accepted responsibility for the Darfur conflict but accused the International Criminal Court of conducting a "campaign of lies", the Guardian reported.
Omar al-Bashir -- who was charged with genocide by the ICC in July 2010 -- made the admission during an interview with the British newspaper.
"Of course, I am the president so I am responsible about everything happening in the country," said Bashir when asked about the conflict, which the United Nations believes has claimed more than 300,000 lives.
"Everything happening, it is a responsibility. But what happened in Darfur, first of all, it was a traditional conflict taking place from the colonial days," argued the leader.
Bashir, who Wednesday faced protests from supporters of Darfur rebel chief Abdelwahid Nur, played down the UN's estimated toll and justified his government's actions in Sudan's war-torn western region.
"As a government we fought the ones who were carrying arms against the state, but also some of the insurgents attacked some tribes, so we had human losses," Bashir said.
"But it is not close to the numbers being mentioned in the western media, these numbers are in fact being exaggerated for a reason," he added.
"It is a duty for the government to fight the insurgents, but we did not fight the people of Darfur."
Thousands protested Wednesday in Zalingi, a town in western Darfur, carrying opposition group Sudan Liberation Movement flags and pictures of the rebel leader, chanting slogans against Bashir and complaining of rising food prices.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the demonstrators, arresting 23 and wounding numerous others.
Around 1.8 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Darfur since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, according to the UN.
Bashir and state Governor Ahmed Harun are both wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The president denies all charges and slammed Luis Moreno Ocampo, the ICC's chief prosecutor.
"The behaviour of the prosecutor of the court, it was clearly the behaviour of a political activist not a legal professional. He is now working on a big campaign to add more lies," he told the paper.
The Sudanese leader went on to draw parallels between his country and Libya, accusing Western powers of using military might to further their own positions.
"The resources of Libya like petrol make it important to other countries like France, Britain and Europe in general," Bashir noted.
"It is important for them to see a regime in Libya that would be, if not loyal, friendly toward those countries.
"Regarding us, they (the US, Britain and France) were trying to change the regime in Sudan since 20 years, this is not new news for us," he added.
© 2011 AFP