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China hosts Sudan leader wanted by world court
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 27, 2011

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.

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.

earlier related report
Deadly air strikes in Sudan border state: UN
Khartoum (AFP) June 26, 2011 - Civilians were among the victims of ongoing air strikes in Sudan's border state of South Kordofan, where the army is battling militia aligned to the soon to be independent south, the UN reported on Sunday.

Sporadic air strikes and shelling have been taken place since Wednesday in the eastern and southern parts of South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains, home to Sudan's indigenous non-Arab Nuba, the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) said in its latest report.

"According to partners on the ground, one woman was killed and four others, including two children, were wounded in an aerial attack on Kauda on June 22," OCHA said.

It added that several rockets landed near the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) team site on Friday.

Heavy fighting in north Sudan's ethnically divided border state, which first erupted three weeks ago, has threatened to torpedo a 2005 peace deal that is set to deliver independence for the south on July 9.

The United States and the United Nations have repeatedly called for a ceasefire in the troubled border region and the safe passage of humanitarian assistance for the more than 70,000 people displaced by the conflict.

The security situation in South Kordofan state capital Kadugli, which saw some of the heaviest fighting when the conflict broke out, has significantly improved, according to various sources, with the town's population returning slowly.

Last week, the authorities ordered the thousands of people who had sought shelter around the UNMIS compound outside Kadugli to return to the town.

But OCHA said on Sunday that the overall humanitarian picture remained far from clear.

"Due to the ongoing restrictions on movements of humanitarian staff, it is difficult to verify reports or properly assess the overall impact of the ongoing military operations on civilians," OCHA said.

Church leaders and activists say the army's campaign forms part of a government policy of ethnic cleansing, targeting the Nuba peoples who fought with former southern rebels the SPLA during their 1983-2005 war with Khartoum.

The government strongly denies the claims, saying it is protecting the civilian population.

OCHA said the authorities were still holding four of the six local UN staff of southern origin detained by the army on Wednesday as they were being relocated to the south.

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