Sudanese President’s Visit to China Delayed

Posted June 27th, 2011 at 8:00 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 while traveling to Beijing.

Sudan's foreign ministry says Mr. Bashir was traveling from Iran to China when his plane was re-routed while flying over Turkmenistan.

For unknown reasons, the president was flown back to Tehran. The ministry says Mr. Bashir still expects to leave for China by the end of the day.

The Sudanese leader was due to start a four-day visit in China, Sudan's most powerful ally.

The trip has been condemned by human rights groups because of 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 regions separate on 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 for crimes against humanity over his government's handling of the uprising in Darfur, in which an estimated 300,000 people have died. The Sudanese president canceled a planned visit to Malaysia this month after its government came under pressure to arrest him.