The African Union has said it will move a July summit from Malawi if that country keeps up its efforts to block the attendance of Sudan's wanted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Malawi's vice president Khumbo Kachali said on Friday that the AU had sent them a letter saying that if Bashir wasn't going to be let into the country, then they would move the summit to Addis Ababa.
Sudan had said earlier it wanted the summit moved from Malawi to Ethiopia. The request came after Malawian President Joyce Banda said last month she had asked the AU to prevent President Omar Haasen al-Bashir from attending the summit, as another visit by him could have "implications" for her country's economy.
International donors were angry with Malawi when it hosted Bashir last year, but in the meantime, the then Malawian president, Bingu wa Mutharika has died and been succeeded by Banda.
Confidence in her administration was expressed on Wednesday when the International Monetary Fund announced that Malawi would receive a $157 million (125 million euro) loan to fix its troubled economy.
Bashir has been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Sudan's western Darfur region by the International Criminal Court. He denies the charges. Under ICC rules, court members, of which Malawi is one, have a duty to arrest Bashir if he sets foot on their territory.
Summit important for Sudan
Banda's evident determination to keep Bashir at arm's length drew criticism from the Sudanese foreign ministry. Malawi's position, it said in a statement, had violated AU rules including an obligation to provide "the required propitious frameworks and environment for the summit."
Khartoum has asked the AU to stage the summit, which is scheduled to run from July 9 to 16, at an alternative venue, proposing the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which is also home to the AU's headquarters. It said it attached "the utmost importance" to the summit.
Ethiopia is one of several countries that Bashir has already visited with impunity since an arrest warrant was issued for him in 2009.
The AU summit's agenda is expected to include talks over Khartoum's relations with South Sudan, which gained independence last year.
Sudan and South Sudan are at odds over a long list of issues, including the position of their common border, oil payments, debt and the status of citizens in one another's territory.
More pressure for Bashir's arrest
Meanwhile, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has sought to increase pressure on the international community to arrest Bashir. He told the UN Security Council this week that the failure to detain Bashir and other Sudanese officials accused of war crimes and genocide was a direct challenge to the council's authority. Moreno-Ocampo said the council should call on all 193 member states and regional organisations to carry out the arrest warrants.
The prosecutor, who finishes his term this month, also suggested that aid should be cut off to states that help Bashir evade arrest to convince them to hand him over to the ICC if he visits those countries.
Author: Mark Caldwell (AP, Reuter, AFP)
Editor: Asumpta Lattus