By Nora Boustany
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
China voiced concern yesterday over charges by the International Criminal Court implicating Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in state-sponsored acts of genocide in the country's embattled Darfur region, but there was no indication it would move to stall the process so close to the Aug. 8 opening of the Beijing Olympic Games.
"China expresses grave concern and misgivings about the International Criminal Court prosecutor's indictment of the Sudanese leader," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing, according to the Reuters news service. Liu said that the court's actions should promote stability and an adequate settlement in Darfur, not the contrary.
A Chinese Africa expert, however, was quoted as saying he did not expect China to move on its own to hold off the ICC, with the Beijing government anxious to make the best possible impression as Olympic host. He Wenping, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the court's ruling would "have many consequences that China won't like" and would impede its ability to mediate over Darfur, where an estimated 450,000 civilians have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since 2003.
China, which has a vast stake in Sudanese oil, is also Sudan's main arms supplier and has faced criticism from the West over its links to Khartoum. The BBC's "Panorama" program said it had evidence that China's export of 212 army trucks to Sudan was in violation of a 2005 arms embargo.
In Washington, President Bush said that the United States, which is not a member of the ICC, would see how the ruling "plays out," as a three-judge panel evaluates a request by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for an arrest warrant against Bashir. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the ICC should be strengthened, not criticized.
The International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based research organization, suggested Monday that the U.N. Security Council take advantage of the two-to-three-month window before the judges' decision is due to "assess whether genuine and substantial progress is in fact being made in stopping the continuing violence" in Darfur. If progress has been made, "the Security Council could . . . exercise its power" to suspend prosecution for an initial 12 months, the group said.
Bush said the United Nations needs to work with the Khartoum government to get the joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force fully in place. "And then the question is, will the government help, you know, expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid?" he asked.
In Khartoum, Sudan's capital, the United Nations counseled staff to stay indoors as pro-government rallies spilled into the streets around its offices and the French and British embassies. Relief organizations operating in Darfur moved nonessential staff from rural areas into towns.
Meanwhile, Egypt and Yemen expressed support for Bashir, and Iran said it viewed the ICC prosecutor's move as "unpleasant." The Sudanese government could deal with the crisis "through talks among domestic groups," Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said.