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China hosts Sudan leader wanted by world court

28 june 2011, 14:34
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is to arrive in China on Monday for a state visit, with rights groups outraged over the warm welcome for a man accused of genocide and war crimes, AFP reports.

China is a key supporter of Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity that occurred in Sudan's war-torn western Darfur region during the country's civil war.

Beijing is also a key military supplier to the regime in Khartoum and the biggest buyer of the country's oil, although the majority of Sudan's oil fields are located in the south, which will become independent next month.

Bashir was expected to arrive in Beijing early Monday morning and meet later in the day with Chinese President Hu Jintao. He is scheduled to leave China on Thursday.

China last week defended the visit as "quite reasonable."

"In recent years President Bashir has made many visits to other countries and was warmly welcomed," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

"It's quite reasonable for China to invite the head of a state that has diplomatic ties with China to come for a visit."

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, where about 300,000 people have died since 2003.

He is the first sitting head of state to be targeted by an ICC warrant.

ICC statutes dictate that any member country should arrest Bashir if he visits. China is not a party to those statutes.

Bashir cancelled plans to attend a summit earlier this month in Malaysia, which declared this year that it intends to recognise the ICC's jurisdiction to show its commitment to fight crimes against humanity.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Bashir's visit to China was "an affront to victims of heinous crimes committed in Darfur" and urged Beijing to withdraw its invitation -- or arrest Bashir when he arrived.

Amnesty International said earlier this month China risked becoming a "safe haven for alleged perpetrators of genocide" if it hosted Bashir.

Bashir will also hold talks later with other top officials.

Topics on the agenda are likely to include possible fresh aid to Sudan and problems in Abyei, a disputed border area claimed by Bashir's Khartoum-based northern Sudan regime and a rival government in the south.

Khartoum government troops occupied Abyei on May 21 and tens of thousands of people have since fled to the south.

The north and south reached an accord last Monday under which border areas will be demilitarised.

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