Sudan president arrives in China 24 hours late after re-routing

Sudan president arrives in China 24 hours late after re-routing

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in China Tuesday nearly 24 hours later than his scheduled arrival after reportedly flying over Pakistan to avoid Turkmenistan, dpa reported.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said al-Bashir would hold talks with President Hu Jintao and other leaders on bilateral issues and "Sudan's ongoing north-south peace process and the Darfur issue."

His arrival followed his reported return to Tehran after taking off for Beijing on Monday, apparently to avoid flying over Turkmenistan.

The Sudan Tribune quoted unidentified sources in Khartoum as saying that al-Bashir returned to Tehran "over concerns that the route would make him fly over countries that are members of the International Criminal Court (ICC)."

The newspaper later quoted Sudanese diplomatic sources as saying al-Bashir's plane was rerouted via Pakistani airspace after Turkmenistan had "revoked its permission to al-Bashir's plane and instead suggested another route."

It said senior officials travelling with al-Bashir had "voiced suspicion" that the route change suggested by Turkmenistan could be "a plot to apprehend their boss."

The newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying they believed Turkmenistan "came under pressure from the West" to block the flight, although Turkmenistan has not signed the Rome Statute which would oblige it to arrest al-Bashir under ICC rules.

Al-Bashir had attended an international summit on terrorism in Tehran Saturday.

He was scheduled to make a four-day state visit to China despite being wanted on genocide charges by the ICC.

The Netherlands-based court has issued two warrants for al-Bashir in connection with alleged atrocities committed in the Darfur region. Al-Bashir has rejected the charges.

China is not a member of the international court and has invested billions of dollars in Sudan, especially in its oil industry.

But it must now balance its relations with al-Bashir and with the soon-to-be-independent South Sudan, where about 75 per cent of Sudan's oil resources lie.

Al-Bashir told the government's Xinhua news agency last week that China had supported Sudan at "various international forums" and was "a partner for us in many projects."

Al-Bashir has had to cancel several foreign trips before because of pressure from the international court.

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