THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court's (ICC) prosecutor charged Sudan's president on Monday with masterminding a campaign of genocide in Darfur, killing 35,000 people and persecuting 2.5 million refugees.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the most senior figure pursued by the court since it was set up in 2002.
Bashir is the first sitting head of state charged by an international court since Liberia's Charles Taylor and Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic.
The Sudanese leader dismissed the charges and said the ICC had no jurisdiction in Sudan.
"Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes ... will know that all of these things are lies," he said in comments carried on state TV.
Sudan will seek support from allies such as China and Russia to get the U.N. Security Council -- which asked the ICC to investigate crimes in Darfur in 2005 -- to block any warrant.
China declined to comment on the case, which arises at a bad time for Khartoum's biggest arms supplier and a major investor in its oil industry just weeks before the Beijing Olympics.
Moreno-Ocampo said on top of the thousands killed by Sudan's armed forces and the militia they support, 2.5 million others were subjected to a campaign of "rape, hunger and fear" in refugee camps where he said genocide continued "under our eyes."
"The decision to start the genocide was taken by Bashir personally," he told a news conference. "Bashir is executing this genocide without gas chambers, without bullets, without machetes. It is a genocide by attrition."
International experts say at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.5 million have been displaced since 2003. Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed.
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