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An awkward independence day for diplomats in South Sudan

South Sudan's independence celebrations tomorrow look set to bring leaders from the world over: 30 African heads of state, plus Ban ki-Moon and a number of other senior Western diplomats. The presence of so many global bigwigs is wonderful news for the world's youngest country, but it has already made arrangements for the event a little more complicated. The Washington Times reports:

Sudanese President Omar [al]-Bashir's decision to attend South Sudan's independence celebrations in Juba on Saturday has created potentially awkward situations for delegations from countries that have been pressing for his arrest on a war crimes indictment...

A senior Western official in Sudan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said southern officials have assured the diplomatic corps in Juba they will do everything to avoid any embarrassments.

"The government is sensitive to these concerns and is going to do everything possible to make sure there are no embarrassments of any sort, on any side, on that day," the official said. "They are conscious that this might be awkward to Bashir as well."

A special seating arrangement has been worked out to minimize the possibility of blushing faces.

The International Criminal Court's March 2009 indictment alleged that Bashir was responsible for war crimes in the ongoing conflict in Darfur. Recent violence in border states Abyei and South Kordofan hasn't endeared him to the international community either. Bashir and rebel leaders pledged in late June to pull troops out of Abyei before the referendum, but Bashir's ambassador to Kenya reaffirmed yesterday the north's claim to the region. Bashir also backtracked yesterday on the June 29 peace accord between government officials and pro-southern rebels that promised to quell the fighting in South Kordofan.

Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma will be donning his superhero cape again on his visit to confront Bashir about recent violence in Sudan.

ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

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