By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court's decision to shelve an inquiry into war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region is likely to embolden hardliners in Khartoum and contribute to more violence, opposition and rebel leaders said on Monday.
The Hague-based court indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2009 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in connection with the suppression of a revolt in Darfur. It said on Friday it would suspend the investigation, citing limited resources and deadlock at the U.N. Security Council.
Friday's decision prompted Bashir to claim victory over the court and declare a renewed push to end rebellions around Sudan.
"The decision will lead to a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan as the military confrontation escalates," Jibril Bilal of Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said.
Darfur has been embroiled in conflict since mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination.
Darfur rebels have since joined forces with groups in the southern provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where an insurgency is raging, mounted mostly by ex-civil war fighters left in Sudan after the south seceded in 2011.
Sadiq Youssef of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) umbrella opposition group said the ICC decision was intended to publicly pressure the Security Council to act on Darfur.
But analysts doubt it will have an effect without concessions by veto-wielding permanent members China and Russia, who have largely opposed action against Bashir.
The ICC decision could also sap faith in African Union-brokered peace talks with southern rebels in Addis Ababa, which collapsed last week but were set to resume next month.
"Military hardliners seem to have been given a second chance," Jerome Tubiana, International Crisis Group's Sudan analyst, said.
Clashes have intensified as talks have unraveled, prompting Human Rights Watch to accuse government forces of abuses in Blue Nile state.
Youssef said Khartoum could also squeeze critics in the run-up to April's election in which Bashir is running for an extension of his 25 years in power.
A spokesperson for Sudan's ruling party said the ICC decision would have no bearing on internal politics.
(Additional reporting and writing by Shadi Bushra in Cairo, Editing by Lin Noueihed and Janet Lawrence)