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US, China concerned over ICC warrant for Bashir

Sudan's coalition partner urges talks with ICC

China expressed "grave concern" on Tuesday over the decision of the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant for Sudan's president on charges of genocide in the region of Darfur, while the U.S. stepped up security and Sudan's coalition government partner urged talks with the ICC.

It is the first time the court has targeted a sitting head of state, and also the first time it has accused anyone of genocide.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference that China had consulted with other members of the United Nations Security Council and "hopes to reach consensus with the relevant parties".

"The ICC's actions must be beneficial to the stability of the Darfur region and the appropriate settlement of the issue, not the contrary."

China has come under international criticism for its oil interests in Sudan and its arms sales there, but it says it has played a positive role in convincing the government to accept a peacekeeping force and in encouraging dialogue.

U.S. concerned about security

The U.S. government meanwhile said it is bolstering security for its staff in Sudan amid concerns of a violent backlash.

McCormack added that not only has the U.S. embassy taken "appropriate security measures" for staff in Khartoum and the southern city of Juba, but it has also reminded Beshir's government of its responsibilities under the Vienna Convention.

The United Nations, African Union, aid agencies and Western embassies have feared a violent backlash after the ICC announcement, but Sudan has said they would be protected.

The State Department and the White House said they would review the ICC arrest warrant request.

"We will monitor the situation in The Hague and review what the prosecutor has requested, but we are not a part of the ICC," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Washington vehemently opposes the ICC, the world's first permanent tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and has waged a global campaign to sign immunity pacts with other countries since the court came into being in July 2002.

SPLM backs ICC

Sudan's coalition government partner said on Monday Khartoum should open the door to talks with the ICC.

Bashir's dominant National Congress Party (NCP) has rejected any such move by the ICC and refuses to cooperate with The Hague-based court which accused the president of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on Monday.

"We should open a window of consultation, exchange of views with the ICC," the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) spokesman Yasir Arman told Reuters.

The former southern rebel SPLM signed a landmark deal with Bashir's NCP in 2005, ending Africa's longest civil war. The agreement enshrined power and wealth sharing and democratic transformation.

The SPLM received more than a quarter of government posts and parliamentarians under the 2005 accord. The movement had supported the ICC when it issued arrest warrants last year for a government minister and an allied militia leader.

But it recognized a warrant for Bashir could threaten the future of the north-south deal.

"It created a serious situation that could threaten peace and stability in Sudan," Arman said.

Independent think tank, International Crisis Group, warned that hard-liners in Beshir's government could thwart progress in peace talks with the south and Darfur, or try and block effort to deploy more U.N.-AU troops in Darfur.

"These are significant risks, particularly given that the likelihood of actually executing any warrant issued against Beshir is remote, at least in the short term," the group said in a statement.