KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir condemned an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for his defense minister, who stood by his side during a speech on Saturday.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for Defence Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein as part of an investigation into atrocities in Darfur.
Hussein is the latest of several senior officials in Sudan to be indicted by the court in The Hague, which is also seeking the arrest of Bashir on charges of orchestrating genocide.
All indictees remain at large.
"Why did they look the other way for all that time and now say this? They want to undermine a symbol of the Sudanese armed forces," Bashir, wearing military uniform, told the crowd.
"I say, on behalf of the armed forces, we will defend the dignity and pride of Sudan," he said.
The ICC said there were sufficient grounds to hold Hussein responsible for 20 counts of crimes against humanity, including persecution and rape, and 21 counts of war crimes, including murder and attacks on civilians.
Sudan's Foreign Ministry had on Thursday dismissed the ICC move.
The United Nations has said as many as 300,000 people died in the Darfur conflict. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in December that Hussein, one of Bashir's closest allies who is leading a campaign against rebels in the south, was wanted for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur from August 2003 to March 2004.
"The U.S. Secretary of State said Sudan was working on destabilising South Sudan and they said they will deal with Sudan following a policy of the carrot and the stick," Bashir said, referring to earlier comments from the United States.
"We tell them their carrot is poisoned and rotten and your stick will not scare us," he said.
South Sudan voted to secede last year, the culmination of a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war. At partition, three-quarters of Sudan's known oil reserves fell in South Sudan's territory but the two sides did not agree on how much the government in Juba should pay to use oil export and processing facilities in Sudan.
Both nations trade accusations of supporting insurgents in each other's territory.
(Reporting by Khaled Abdel Aziz; Writing by Dina Zayed)