Sudanese leader says being hounded by ICC, West

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir speaks during a celebration to mark 59 years of independence from Britain, in Khartoum on December 31, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Paris (AFP) - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is gearing up for an April election expected to return him to office, said in an interview on Thursday the International Criminal Court and Western powers were "hounding" him.

Indicted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, where insurgents rose up in 2003 in an ongoing conflict that has left more than 300,000 dead, Bashir denounced "lies" and "made-up charges" in the Le Monde daily.

"This ICC is part of the tools used to destabilise Sudan," he said, adding there had never been a genocide in Darfur.

"I will not give in and will resist this political hounding," added Bashir, who has been in power since 1989.

Sudan's mainstream opposition has announced it will boycott the April 13 elections, which are also for parliament, as it did in 2010.

The National Electoral Commission has said some 14 candidates are competing with Bashir for the presidency but most are little-known and pose no real threat to his reelection bid.

The Sudanese government nevertheless appears anxious ahead of the vote and has cracked down on the press.

In the interview, Bashir said some of his policies did not sit well with Western powers, including the United States.

"I say loud and clear that Palestinian resistance to Israel is legitimate. I am against American intervention in Muslim countries," the 71-year-old said.

Bashir's regime is often suspected of supporting Islamist movements in the region, particularly in Libya, but he denied this.

"I do not intervene in the internal affairs of other African countries. And I ask that others refrain from intervening in ours," he said.