Sudan must work with the International Criminal Court whatever it decides regarding a possible arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir over Darfur, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.
"He should fully cooperate with whatever decisions the ICC makes," Ban told reporters at a news conference.
Last year chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo asked the court's judges to indict Bashir for orchestrating what he described as a campaign of genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region that killed 35,000 people in 2003 and at least another 100,000 through starvation and disease.
Sudan rejects the term genocide and says 10,000 people died in the conflict. U.N. officials say at least 2.5 million were left homeless and put the death toll as high as 300,000.
U.N. diplomats say the judges will likely decide in favor of indictment and announce their decision this month.
Khartoum has ruled out handing over Bashir or two other Sudanese citizens previously indicted by The Hague-based court for suspected war crimes in Darfur.
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem reacted angrily to Ban's remarks. "If the secretary-general wants us to believe that the court is independent, then he should stop becoming its spokesperson," he told Reuters.
Some U.N. officials worry that the Sudanese government might encourage reprisals against international peacekeepers. Ban said it was crucial for Bashir and his government "to react very responsibly and ensure safety of (U.N.) peacekeepers."
Khartoum said it would continue cooperating with U.N. peacekeepers if Bashir is indicted, but has warned there may be widespread demonstrations of public outrage.
Politically motivated investigation
Abdalhaleem dismissed the ICC investigation of Bashir as politically motivated, saying the court was "hostage to the political will of some powers on the Security Council."
"We know the forces of darkness are conspiring against our country," he said, adding that Sudan's "government "knows its commitments" regarding the safety of U.N. peacekeepers.
The Arab League and African Union have urged the U.N. Security Council to suspend any prosecution of Bashir to avoid sabotaging stalled Darfur peace talks.
Ban declined to say whether he supported that push but urged Khartoum to "take the necessary domestic judiciary measures" to justify suspending any ICC proceedings against Bashir before the issue reaches the Security Council.
Diplomats said this could mean either handing over to The Hague two Sudanese men already indicted for genocide or organizing a credible trial for them in Sudan.