Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sudan's Bashir rallies Arab tribesmen in Darfur

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's president rallied thousands of spear-waving Arab tribesmen in Darfur on Wednesday as he maintained his defiant stance against international moves to arrest him for war crimes.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir vowed to confront Western "colonisers" at the gathering of Rizeigat tribespeople -- a group including clans that have produced some of the fiercest pro-government militias in the Darfur conflict.

Bashir's emotional speech came amid signs of a growing standoff between Sudan and the West following the International Criminal Court's decision to indict him for masterminding atrocities in Darfur.

The president sparked international outrage this month when he expelled 13 foreign aid groups, and shut down three local organisations, accusing them of assisting the court.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday stepped up pressure on Khartoum by saying Bashir would be responsible for every death caused by the resulting drop in humanitarian cover in the remote region.

The vast crowd of Rizeigat tribespeople, many riding horses and camels, swore a mass oath of allegiance to the president at the rally in the remote Sibdu valley area in south Darfur.

In a speech broadcast live on Sudan TV, Bashir told the gathering the West was trying to remove him from power, but he was ready to confront any attack.

"These knights on horseback now have spears, but tomorrow on the battlefield they will have machine guns," he said, referring to the crowd. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>

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