An unprecedented development with huge political and legal implications occurred last week. The international Criminal Court in the Hague issued an arrest warrant on March 4 for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan on alleged charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. It is the first time that an arrest warrant has been issued against a serving head of state. Earlier President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and President Charles Tayler of Liberia have been brought to trial but not while in office. The decision of ICC is culmination of the relentless campaign that US has over years launched against Sudan on the issue of Darfur. It pressured UN Security Council to refer the issue to ICC, which has led to the current development. The Darfur crisis surfaced in February 2003, with a rebellion by animists against the Arab tribes, known as the Janjaweed and supported by Khartoum. It is alleged that 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes and more than 300,000 killed by violence, hunger and disease. The US has accused Sudan of 'genocide' in Darfur and warned it of the consequences. In the White House document National Security Strategy, the US warned: "Patient efforts to end conflict should not be mistaken for tolerance of the intolerable." The neocons in the Bush Administration had targeted Sudan, both for acts of commission and omission. Sudan, despite close cooperation with the US on terrorism in the wake of 9/11, still continues to be classified as a 'terrorist state'. Horrific images of genocide in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s were invoked to justify intervention on Sudan on the pretext of humanitarian concerns, with warnings that the international community will not watch the Darfur situation while standing idly by. The matter was seized by the Security Council and Kofi Annan visited Darfur in May 2005, following a massive relief operation. A ceasefire was put in place. Peace talks between Khartoum and the rebels mediated by a UN envoy, Juan Mendez, were held in Abuja. The Security Council also referred the situation to the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes there. In 2005 the African Union moved into the fray to calm the situation, secure human lives and seek a political agreement. An African Union Protection Force of 5000, with another 2000 police and military observers, has been stationed in the troubled region. Great humanitarian concerns are being expressed in the name of protecting innocent people from tyrannical leaders, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, but the real motivation is Sudan's three billion barrels of oil reserves. It produces 350,000 barrels per day, earning $1 billion in oil revenues. The oil factor has changed the dimensions of the conflict, inviting rivalry between China and the US, China being the largest investor in the Sudanese oil industry. The African and Arab nations are deeply alarmed at this disturbing development and rightly fear that it would lead to destabilising of the region and further chaos and instability in Sudan. The Arab League and African Union have urged UNSC to exercise its authority to suspend the ICC warrant to defuse the crisis. China and Russia support the move, but US, UK and France have threatened to veto any such initiative. President Al Bashir who seized power in 1989 has rejected the allegations and there have been countrywide demonstrations pledging support to Al Bashir. The unfortunate country that has been ravaged for decades both by famine and civil war was finally heading towards a promising future, thanks to an agreement reached in 2007 to end the civil war in the South that has wreaked havoc and rendered this potentially rich country a basket case. But now it is confronted with yet another civil war in its northern province of Darfur. Sudan has dealt with the escalating pressure from the west and the US in particular, during last five years with dexterity and finesse and kept the trouble at bay. Khartoum believes that under Obama the US will not indulge in coercive tactics and allow diplomacy a chance to solve the crisis. It may be noted that neither Sudan nor US is signatory to ICC and hence beyond ICC Jurisdiction. Seeking intervention in the domestic affairs of a country in the name of humanitarian considerations is a highly dangerous precedent. The nations in the third world should ponder over the implications of such intrusive and coercive diplomacy to their national sovereignty, in similar situation The writer is a former ambassador