China's Hu reiterates support for Sudan
BEIJING Feb 4 (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday reiterated China's support for Sudan, whose president has been accused of genocide in Darfur, ahead of his trip to Africa next week.
Rights groups say China, which last year imported $6.3 billion of Sudanese crude oil, has failed to do enough to stop bloodshed in Darfur and has violated a U.N. arms embargo on the region.
China denies the charges and has appointed its own envoy to try to bring peace to Darfur.
"China is willing to make joint efforts with Sudan to carry on their traditional friendship, boost pragmatic cooperation and push friendly cooperation to a new high," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as telling Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
In July, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked judges to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir, accusing him of orchestrating genocide in Darfur where international experts say fighting has killed 200,000 people.
China has said a war crimes indictment against Bashir would have a "disastrous" impact on the Darfur conflict and has called for the case to be postponed.
Hu, who sent the message to Bashir to mark the anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties, did not mention the war crimes case specifically.
"China respects Sudan's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xinhua paraphrased Hu as saying. "China also supports the African country's efforts to realise national reconciliation, advance the peace process, develop the national economy and improve people's living standards.
Hu heads to Saudi Arabia and four African countries next week on a state visit, though he will not go to Sudan. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by David Fox)