DOHA, Qatar – Sudan's president, who is sought by an international court on charges of war crimes in Darfur, received a warm welcome Sunday in Qatar, where he will attend this week's Arab League summit.
President Omar al-Bashir was greeted with hugs and kisses by Qatar's emir in a red-carpet welcome at Doha's airport on Sunday. He later had coffee with the emir and the head of the Arab League. The summit begins Monday.
The 22-nation Arab League has already said it would not enforce the International Criminal Court's arrest order for al-Bashir issued on March 4 and the Sudanese leader visited Eritrea, Egypt and Libya over the past week in a show of defiance.
Arab countries have been critical of the international tribunal's decision to issue an arrest warrant, arguing it would further destabilize Sudan as the Darfur conflict enters its seventh year. The Arab-dominated Sudanese government's battle against ethnic African rebels in the western region has killed up to 300,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes since 2003, according to the U.N.
Arab foreign ministers preparing for this week's summit endorsed a draft resolution Saturday rejecting the ICC's arrest warrant.
"The leaders reject attempts to politicize the principles of international justice and using them to undermine the sovereignty, unity and stability, of Sudan," said the draft resolution.
In a news conference Saturday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the League will "continue our efforts to halt the implementation of the warrant," including asking the U.N. Security Council to halt the case against al-Bashir.
"What is required from all of us is to stand with our brothers in Sudan and its leadership in order to prevent dangers that affect our collective security," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said.
But the Arab ministers rejected an offer from Sudan to host an emergency Arab summit in Sudan to show solidarity with al-Bashir. Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said instead that Arab governments decided they will increase their diplomatic visits to Sudan.
Qatar, an energy-rich Gulf state, has been seeking to play a bigger role on the Middle East stage, and mediated a round a preliminary talks between Sudan's government and the most powerful of the Darfur rebel groups in February.
Wading into other important regional issues, Qatar supports the Palestinian movement Hamas but also hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.