by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 28, 2011
A meeting between President Hu Jintao and Sudan leader Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of war crimes, was cancelled Monday after Bashir's arrival in Beijing was delayed, the Chinese government said.
Bashir had been due in China early in the day, with rights groups outraged that Beijing would host a man wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity during Sudan's civil war.
Chinese foreign ministry staff told AFP that Bashir's plane was "delayed" and the afternoon's activities cancelled, referring to a meeting with Hu.
They later said the Sudanese leader was now expected to arrive in Beijing at 3:30am on Tuesday (1930 GMT Monday) and that the talks with Hu had been set back to Wednesday morning.
The Sudanese foreign ministry said Bashir, who had been attending a counter-terrorism summit in Tehran, had to reroute his trip and had flown back to Iran.
Bashir was due to stay in China -- a key supporter of the regime in Khartoum -- until Thursday, although it was unclear whether the delay would now prolong his visit.
The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan's western Darfur region, 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.
China is a major 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.
Beijing last week defended the visit.
"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."
A US State Department spokeswoman on Monday said it opposed China's invitation to Bashir, and urged Beijing to press Sudan "to cooperate fully with the ICC."
Rights groups were more strident in their criticism with New York-based Human Rights Watch saying Bashir's visit 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 was also slated to hold talks with other top Chinese officials.
Topics on the agenda were 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 the 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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Highway threat to Tanzania Wildebeest migration scrapped
Paris (AFP) June 25, 2011
A plan to build a highway through Tanzania's Serengeti which environmentalists warned would spell disaster for the national park's famed wildebeest migration has been dropped, UNESCO said on Saturday. The spectacle, which is a major tourist draw, is one of the planet's greatest natural spectacles. The proposed highway would have linked remote under-developed communities to larger hubs, c ... read more
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