China rolls out red carpet for Sudan's Al-Bashir
SUDANESE leader Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on genocide charges, was given a red-carpet welcome yesterday by Chinese President Hu Jintao and guarantees of financial support.
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 Tuesday.
The pair later witnessed the signing of a economic and technological cooperation agreement, as well as two loan deals including one for a bridge 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 300000 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 will firmly pursue a friendly policy toward Sudan," Hu was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
"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.
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 spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Monday.
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".