Sudanese President’s Visit to China Delayed

Posted June 27th, 2011 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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A controversial meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir was postponed Monday, after Mr. Bashir was delayed traveling to Beijing.

Sudan's foreign ministry says Mr. Bashir was flying from Iran to China late Sunday when his plane was given a new flight path over Turkmenistan. It says the change was not possible because of timing reasons, and that the pilot returned to Iran.

The ministry says the presidential plane received a new route, and that Mr. Bashir is now expected to arrive in Beijing late Monday.

The Sudanese leader is still expected to spend at least three days in China, Sudan's most powerful ally.

Human rights groups have condemned China's refusal to arrest Mr. Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court. The ICC has indicted the Sudanese president for alleged war crimes and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

In an interview with Chinese media ahead of the visit, Mr. Bashir praised China for helping his country to blunt the impact of U.S.-led economic sanctions.

He also told the official Xinhua news agency that he expects Beijing to continue to have good relations with both northern and southern Sudan after the south becomes independent July 9. Mr. Bashir was expected to discuss the split in his talks with Mr. Hu.

In his interview, Mr. Bashir said Sudan found a “true partner” in China after Western oil companies were limited from working in Sudan by sanctions imposed because of fighting in Darfur. He said China is funding and implementing many projects in Sudan, surprising other African and Arab countries which had thought the sanctions would make it impossible for Sudan to extract its oil.

He said the success of the Sino-Sudanese relationship is leading other African countries to search for “the real and loyal partner.” He also said the establishment of Chinese relations with the new state in southern Sudan — which will inherit a large part of Sudan's oil reserves — will not detract from its relations with Khartoum.

The ICC wants to try Mr. Bashir over his government's handling of the uprising in Darfur. The United Nations say the fighting has killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others.

The Sudanese president canceled a planned visit to Malaysia this month after its government came under pressure to arrest him. But he has visited other countries that are members of the ICC, including Kenya and Chad.