US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir can "have his day in court" if he wants to fight an indictment by the International Criminal Court.
"President Beshir will have a chance to have his day in court if he believes that the indictment is wrongly charged. He can certainly contest it," she told reporters travelling with her to Brussels.
"The ICC has issued an indictment based on a very long investigation and it is now in a judicial system, properly so," she said yesterday, giving backing to the court's decision.
Beshir, 65, faces five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes. He would not face genocide charges as requested by the ICC prosecutor but they could be added to the warrant later if more evidence emerges.
A court spokeswoman said he bore responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians" from the western Sudanese region where a six-year conflict has cost several hundred thousand lives.
She said Beshir and other high-level Sudanese political and military leaders had orchestrated and coordinated the attacks.
"I certainly hope that it does not lead to any additional act of violence or punishment on the part of the Beshir government," Clinton said, in reference to the indictment.