by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 29, 2011
Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on genocide charges, was given a red-carpet welcome Wednesday by Chinese President Hu Jintao and guarantees of financial support from his key ally.
Bashir's visit to Beijing has sparked the anger of Washington and rights groups, but China -- a major military supplier to the regime in Khartoum and the biggest buyer of the country's oil -- has unflinchingly backed his trip.
The two presidents sat down for talks in the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing after the usual pomp and circumstance of a honour-guard welcome not often afforded to Bashir, who is unwelcome in many countries.
"Mr Bashir, you are a guest who has travelled from afar, and we welcome you," Hu said in opening remarks, adding that he hoped the talks would help bolster the "traditionally friendly relations" between the two countries.
The Sudanese leader, who called Hu his "friend and brother", thanked the Chinese leader for the "warm welcome and treatment" he had received since arriving in Beijing on Tuesday.
The pair later witnessed the signing of an economic and technological cooperation agreement, as well as two loan deals including one for a bridge project in eastern Sudan. No further details were given.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred in Sudan's western Darfur region, where about 300,000 people have died since 2003.
China nevertheless remains an unabashed supporter of the Sudanese leader, who was the first sitting head of state to be served an ICC arrest warrant.
"The Chinese side will firmly pursue a friendly policy toward Sudan," Hu said, according to a foreign ministry statement.
"No matter what the changes in the international situation and internal situation in Sudan, this policy will remain unchanged."
The two presidents discussed the ongoing north-south peace process in Sudan, with Hu offering Bashir his support, and the situation in war-torn Darfur.
The majority of Sudan's oil fields are located in the south, which will become independent on July 9, and Beijing has worked to cultivate relations with the authorities in Juba.
In an interview with China's official Xinhua news agency ahead of the visit, Bashir insisted that southern independence "will not affect the relationship" between Beijing and Khartoum, hailing China as a model "real partner".
China and Sudan on Tuesday signed an agreement to "deepen" oil and gas cooperation in the presence of Bashir and other ministers, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's top oil producer, said in a statement.
The company did not provide further details.
The Sudanese leader's visit has sparked outrage among rights groups, and earned the reproach of the US State Department.
"We continue to oppose invitations, facilitation, support for travel by ICC indictees," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday.
ICC statutes dictate that any member country should arrest Bashir if he visits. China is not a party to those statutes, nor is the United States.
"We reserve our opinion on the ICC's prosecution against President Bashir," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday.
Bashir -- who last visited China in 2006 -- arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, one day late after his presidential plane was turned back to Iran while flying over Turkmenistan. Hong attributed the delay to "technical reasons".
New York-based Human Rights Watch described Bashir's trip as "an affront to victims of heinous crimes committed in Darfur".
"Charges of widespread murder and rape should be cause for condemnation, not an invitation," said Balkees Jarrah, international justice counsel at HRW.
Amnesty International said earlier this month that China risked becoming a "safe haven for alleged perpetrators of genocide" if it hosted Bashir.
Bashir and Hu also likely discussed the problems in Abyei, a disputed border area claimed both by Bashir's Khartoum-based northern Sudan regime and the rival government in the south.
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to send a 4,200-strong Ethiopian peacekeeping force to Abyei in a bid to douse tensions.
The Sudanese leader had been due to stay in China until Thursday, but it was unclear whether his delayed arrival would now prolong his stay.
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Poland discovers major new natural gas deposit
Warsaw (AFP) June 28, 2011
Gas prospectors in Poland have discovered new deposits estimated at 100 billion cubic metres which could double the country's domestic resources, Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said Tuesday. "If the estimates of experts are confirmed, the deposits in the region of Kutno would double our reserves," Pawlak said in a statement, referring to a part of central Poland. Poland's proven natura ... read more
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