Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir held talks in Cairo on Wednesday with Egypt's president, defying an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

Bashir, on his second trip abroad since the Hague-based court issued the warrant on March 4, discussed developments surrounding the ICC ruling with Mubarak before leaving Egypt.

Bashir risks arrest when he leaves Sudan because of the ICC warrant, but neighboring Egypt had not been expected to take any action against him. Cairo has close ties with Khartoum and has called on the U.N. Security Council to suspend the warrant.

This visit came as a result of an invitation by the Egyptian government to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor told a news conference after the talks at Egypt's presidential palace.

Alor said the discussions had focused on the effects of the ICC move, and on the humanitarian situation in Darfur after Sudan's expulsion of a number of foreign aid agencies there.

Ali Youssef Ahmed, head of protocol at Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Bashir wanted to show defiance of the ICC by visiting Egypt the same week as a trip to Eritrea.

The president has said before that the arrest warrant is not worth the ink that it is written with -- and this is the message of this trip, he said.

The president will continue to travel to countries that are against the ICC -- and there are many of these countries, all the African, Arab and many Asian countries.

International experts say at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in almost six years of ethnic and political fighting in Darfur in western Sudan. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died.

The Darfur conflict flared when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, demanding better representation and accusing it of neglecting the development of the region.

Ahmed Hussein Adam, spokesman for Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement, said Egypt's hosting Bashir was in violation of international law and (U.N.) Security Council resolutions.


U.S.-ally Egypt is keen to maintain close ties with Sudan, and fears the ICC warrant could have a destabilizing effect on its southern neighbor, with whom it shares strategic Nile river waters as well as longstanding cultural and political links.

This is an issue of Egyptian national security and we have our perspective that we won't change, regardless of how Europe and the United States feel about it, said Diaa Rashwan, analyst at Cairo's Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Rashwan added that Egypt wanted to signal it would not follow Washington's lead on Sudan, and that Egypt's ties with Washington left a margin to allow for Egypt's interests.

The Sudanese government said shortly after the ICC decision that Bashir would defy the warrant by traveling to an Arab summit in Qatar next week but Sudanese officials have released statements raising questions over the wisdom of the trip, prompting speculation Sudan may send another representative.

The prime minister of Qatar said on Wednesday that the Gulf state was coming under pressure not to receive Bashir, though he did not identify from which source.

There are pressures, but you know Qatar well, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, also Qatar's foreign minister, said in remarks broadcast by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television.

We presented the invitation and I have come to present it again, as the prime minister and foreign minister. We respect international law and we respect the presence of Bashir in Qatar, he said, addressing reporters in Khartoum.

Sudan's Alor said the Sudanese government was working to formulate a stance on the Qatar trip that could be presented to Bashir. He would not be drawn on whether Bashir would be willing to make any foreign visits further afield.

Currently, there is no invitation from any country. There were invitations from two countries and a third invitation to attend the summit, he said. But there is no invitation from any country outside this region.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Heavens and Aziz al-Kaissouni; Writing by Will Rasmussen; Editing by Jon Boyle)