UNITED NATIONS — The African Union asked the UN Security Council in a letter circulated on Friday to delay for a year the prosecution of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide and other alleged crimes.
The 53-nation continent-wide organization said it wants the delay because a trial of al-Bashir would interfere with efforts to end the seven-year conflict in western Darfur.
"The processes under way in the Sudan are too critical to the future of the country and the stability of the region and the continent as a whole to be allowed to fail," the African Union's UN observer, Tete Antonio, said.
His letter was made public hours before a high-level meeting on Sudan on the sideline of the UN General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting. President Barack Obama and other leaders focused mostly on a crucial referendum on southern independence scheduled for January, but prospects for peace in Darfur were also raised.
Last year judges at the International Criminal Court issued a warrant against al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In July, the judges added three counts of genocide, the first time the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal has issued genocide charges.