Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on war crime charges, will skip an economic forum in Malaysia next week due to other engagements, officials said.
The announcement came amid pressure from rights group Amnesty International for Malaysia to arrest al-Bashir if he enters the country. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for al-Bashir for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told state-owned Bernama TV late Wednesday that al-Bashir canceled his trip because he had other pressing engagements and would instead send his foreign minister to the three-day forum that begins Sunday.
An aide to Anifah confirmed his comments Thursday and said the cancellation of al-Bashir's visit had nothing to do with the ICC arrest warrants. The aide, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, couldn't give further details.
The Sudanese leader remains in power, rejecting the charges and the Netherlands-based court, which has no police force and relies on member states to execute its orders and warrants. Malaysia is not an ICC member, but in March it announced its intention to join.
London-based Amnesty International said earlier this week that Malaysia's invitation to al-Bashir "flies in the face of its decision to join the ICC" and called for al-Bashir to be arrested if he turns up.
Darfur was plunged into turmoil in 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, which they accuse of discrimination.
Al-Bashir's regime is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians _ a charge the government denies. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the conflict.