U.S. tightens security at embassy in Sudan

WASHINGTON Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:14pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Monday it had tightened security at its embassy and offices in Sudan after an international prosecutor sought the arrest of the country's president on genocide charges in Darfur.

Fearing a violent backlash, the United States assessed security at both its embassy in Khartoum and U.S. facilities in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"We have taken appropriate security measures for our people," McCormack said without elaborating. He also refused to say how many U.S. diplomats were in the country.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court's prosecutor charged Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir with masterminding a campaign of genocide in Darfur, killing 35,000 people and using rape as a weapon of war.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for an arrest warrant for Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be pursued by an international court since Liberia's Charles Taylor and before that Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic.

McCormack said violence was possible against U.S. interests and international peacekeeping forces in Sudan after the ICC decision.

"We would urge restraint on all parties in Sudan," he said.

Thousands of protesters chanted anti-American slogans at a rally in Khartoum on Sunday to protest a potential arrest warrant, which Sudanese Justice Minister Abdel Basit Sabderat told the crowd would ignite his country.

McCormack said the U.S. government had also been in contact with Sudan's government to ensure that appropriate security measures were in place, as required by international laws.

The United States is not a party to the ICC, but McCormack said the court had recently asked Washington for information to help in its investigations on Darfur. The United States was looking at the request but had not responded yet.

The request was not linked to the Bashir dossier, McCormack said, but he refused to provide any further information about the nature of the ICC's questions or when the United States would send its reply.

The United States has in the past imposed sanctions on a handful of Sudanese politicians and rebels it believes played a role in committing atrocities in the western region of Darfur, but has so far held back on punitive actions against Bashir.

"In terms of our own actions, we take actions based on the information available to us and looking at our laws and our statutes," McCormack said.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu and Cynthia Osterman)

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