CAIRO (AFP) - The arrest warrant issued Wednesday by the International Criminal Court against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir's opened up a global divide on how war crimes justice is administered. While western nations called for Sudan to cooperate with the court's investigation into hundreds of thousands of deaths and rapes in Darfur, Russia called the warrant a "dangerous precedent". The head of the African Union said it could threaten peace in Sudan and many experts were left wondering how the warrant could be enforced. It is the first-ever warrant issued against a sitting head of state, though the court decided he would not face genocide charges. The US said those who have "committed atrocities should be brought to justice". And Darfur rebel chief Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur hailed the decision as a "great victory". But African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping told AFP the move could threaten the fragile peace process in Sudan. "AU's position is that we support the fight against impunity, we cannot let crime perpetrators go unpunished," Ping said. "But we say that peace and justice should not collide, that the need for justice should not override the need for peace." The AU leader said Africa was being selectively targeted. "What we see is that international justice seems to be applying its fight against impunity only to Africa as if nothing were happening elsewhere - in Iraq, Gaza, Colombia or in the Caucasus." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy for Sudan said the warrant sets a "dangerous precedent", quoted by RIA-Novosti. Mikhail Margelov said the "untimely decision... could have a negative effect both on the situation inside Sudan and on the general regional situation." The White House said that anyone guilty of atrocities in Darfur must be held accountable. President Barack Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs also warned that any violence against civilians or foreign interests as a result of the arrest warrants would not be tolerated. "The White House believes those that have committed atrocities should be held accountable," Gibbs told reporters. "We would urge restraint on the part of all parties including the government of Sudan. Russell Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's sub-committee on African affairs, said President Barack Obama must resist any effort to suspend the warrant. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: "We deeply regret that the (Sudanese) government has not taken these allegations seriously or engaged with the court, and we repeat today our call for its cooperation." In Paris, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "France reiterates its support for international criminal justice. France urges Sudan to cooperate fully with the ICC immediately and to implement decisions taken by the judges." German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier said in a statement, "I call on Sudan to respect the decision of the ICC and react in a considered way. That means respecting international rules on the protection of foreign NGO missions." Rights groups saw the warrant as a breakthrough. "Not even presidents are guaranteed a free pass for horrific crimes. By ruling there is a case for President al-Bashir to answer for the horrors of Darfur, the warrant breaks through Khartoum's repeated denials of his responsibility," said Richard Dicker, a director of Human Rights Watch.