Sudan's president dances after war crimes move

March 5, 2009 (CNN)

Sudan's president was seen smiling, dancing and speaking to a huge crowd of supporters Thursday, a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest on war crimes charges.

The display of defiance came as international aid agencies were being ordered to leave the country in retaliation for the move by the International Criminal Court over six years of bloodshed in the country's Darfur region.

The streets of the capital, Khartoum, were filled with people who raised their hands in the air to cheer President Omar al-Bashir, who raised both fists defiantly in the air.

The crowd was filled with posters and banners featuring al-Bashir's face or the flag of Sudan. The one banner written in English read, "We are all with al-Bashir."

Al-Bashir gave a fervent speech to the crowd, denouncing the United States, its Western allies and Israel. At one point, the crowd repeated in English, "Down, down, USA!"

Music before and after the speech got everyone moving, including the president, who smiled broadly and raised his walking stick in the air. A camouflaged helicopter swooped over the crowd.

Angry but peaceful demonstrations took place in cities throughout Sudan on Wednesday after the warrant was announced, according to the United Nations.

Government air and ground forces conducted what the United Nations called a "show of force" in parts of Darfur, where the situation was "calm but unpredictable."

The International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands, issued the warrant Wednesday for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It accuses al-Bashir of complicity in a campaign of violence against the people of Darfur, in the west of the country.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in western Sudan's Darfur region, and 2.5 million have been forced to flee their homes.

Sudan has angrily rejected the accusations and the indictment. Kamal Obaid, Sudan's state minister of information and communications, called the ICC a "white man's tribunal" and the arrest warrant "an insult."

It has told as many as 10 humanitarian groups to leave the country, and seized the agencies' assets, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.


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