KHARTOUM (AFP) - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to press ahead with peace efforts in Darfur despite the international arrest warrant against him, ahead of a defiant weekend visit to the conflict zone. "The ICC (International Criminal Court) will not change anything in the government's plans and programmes," Bashir said, according to a statement published by the state news agency SUNA on Friday. "The government will press ahead with all steps for peace... and will conduct free and fair elections," he told a late-night Thursday meeting of Sudan's top politicians. His comments follow the ICC decision to issue an arrest warrant against Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity over the six-year conflict in Darfur that the UN says has killed 300,000 people. The move has sharply divided the international community, and raised deep concerns about the plight of the millions living in Darfur, often in miserable conditions in one of the remotest areas of the planet. The United States is leading calls for him to be brought before international justice but Sudan's allies including Africa, the Arab world and China want the warrant suspended. Bashir is due to travel to Darfur on Sunday, a trip seen as a deliberate show of defiance to the ICC which accuses him of orchestrating a campaign of extermination, rape, forcible displacement and pillaging. Sudan has already sent a clear message to the world about the course it will pursue following the warrant decision - ordering the expulsion of 13 international aid agencies it accuses of collaborating with the ICC. The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have issued calls for the decision to be revoked, warning of the harsh consequences for the hundreds of thousands of people reliant on aid in Darfur. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the decision, if implemented, would "cause irrevocable damage to humanitarian operations there," spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement. "Let's be very clear, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people are at stake," European Commission Spokesman for Humanitarian Aid John Clancy said. The war in Darfur has made an estimated 2.7 million homeless and others are also at risk of disease and hunger. Conflict erupted in February 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power, triggering a scorched earth campaign by Sudanese forces and allied militias known as Janjaweed. Despite the warrant - the first issued by the ICC against a sitting head of state - Sudanese officials say Bashir will fly to the Qatari capital Doha soon for renewed Darfur peace talks, shrugging off the threat of arrest. The ICC has called on all 108 countries party to the Rome Statue that created The Hague-based court to cooperate with the arrest warrant, but Qatar is not a signatory. Khartoum and the Justice and Equality movement, the most active Darfur rebel group, signed a confidence-building pact in Doha last month designed to lay the groundwork for broader peace talks. A JEM official said on Wednesday it was no longer possible to talk peace with the Khartoum government and that it was time to "get rid of Bashir," although the group has since signalled it may return to Qatar for negotiations. The African Union said after an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa it will send a delegation to the United Nations to try to halt the warrant "to give a chance for peace in Sudan." Thousands of Sudanese have been demonstrating in Khartoum in support of Bashir, some setting ablaze American and Israeli flags and effigies of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in a mass rally on Thursday.