UN chief phones Sudan’s Bashir over abductees


UN chief Ban Ki-moon took the unusual step of phoning Sudan’s president, who is the target of an international arrest warrant, over two staff members abducted in Sudan, Ban’s spokesperson said yesterday.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court issued the warrant in March for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on suspicion of war crimes in the violence-torn region of Darfur.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said the world body’s leadership was under legal advice to minimize contacts with Bashir but that the secretary-general’s call on Sunday was made on humanitarian grounds.

Ban “called to urge the president’s direct engagement in securing the release” of the two staff members, Nesirky said. “To my knowledge, it’s the first call that he has placed (to Bashir) since (the ICC) indictment.”

A Nigerian security officer and a Zimbabwean child protection officer working for the UN/African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur were abducted by armed men on August 29 in the town of Zalingei in West Darfur.

Bashir “assured the secretary-general that everything possible was being done,” Nesirky said.

Ban’s call marked the 100th day since the kidnapping, which Khartoum has blamed on bandits seeking a ransom.

Nesirky said one of the hostages was gravely ill, and described the situation as critical. A UN diplomat said it was believed to be the Nigerian.

He said Ban also raised with Bashir the killing of five Rwandan peacekeepers working for the UN/African Union force in two incidents last week.

Sudan said on Sunday it had arrested a number of suspects in the first of the incidents.