Sudan's president visits Egypt

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KATY CLARK: I'm Katy Clark, and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH in Boston. Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir visited Egypt today. That wouldn't have made news in the past, but this trip defied an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court. Earlier this month, the ICC charged Bashir with crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region. Today's visit was relatively safe for Bashir, because Egypt has said it wouldn't arrest him. Bashir runs more of a risk if, as expected, he attends the Arab League summit in Qatar later this week. The World's Jeb Sharp reports.

JEB SHARP: President Bashir traveled to Eritrea on Monday, his first trip out of the country since his indictment. But today's trip to Egypt was more noteworthy because Egypt is a major player in the region and a key ally of the United States. Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations says Egypt shields Bashir because it is terrified of instability next door.

COOK: From the Egyptian perspective, they hold no brief for Bashir, but they really see no alternative to him in Sudan � and the primary security issues for the Egyptians is Sudan. It's the only place where the headwaters of the Nile, which is Egypt's lifeblood, can be dammed. And there is concern that with greater instability in Sudan, there would be greater numbers of refugee flows from Sudan into Egypt.

SHARP: So today, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other officials met President Bashir at the airport and made a big show of their solidarity with him. It was a public relations coup for Bashir, but international law expert Paul Williams doesn't think the effects will be lasting.

PAUL WILLIAMS: I think President Bashir's trip to Egypt represents a flash in time. You often see when someone of a high level is indicted, there is somewhat of an immediate boost in his popularity by his countrymen and by some of the neighboring states. But from the long-term perspective, when you look at Saddam Hussein, Milosevic, Charles Taylor, it eventually wanes and these individuals eventually end up facing justice.

SHARP: Still, it's an unsettling moment for advocates of the International Criminal Court. Bashir retaliated against the court by expelling international aid agencies from Darfur. Those agencies are critical to the efficient distribution of food, water and medical care in the camps for the displaced. Paul Williams says it's important to remember, though, that responsibility for that action lies with Bashir, not the court.

WILLIAMS: Lashing out against these humanitarian agencies, expelling them, which will result in the deaths of thousands of Sudanese civilians and citizens, reminds us all why he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. And I would even go so far as to say this activity provides additional evidence of his mindset, of his intent to cause harm or death to the Darfurians who are citizens of Sudan.

SHARP: Those who support the indictment have no illusions that Bashir will be arrested any time soon. But they do expect him to become more marginalized both at home and abroad. For The World, I'm Jeb Sharp.