China says a controversial visit to Beijing by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been delayed, forcing the postponement of a scheduled meeting Monday with President Hu Jintao.
The planned four-day visit has been condemned by human rights groups because of China's refusal to arrest Mr. Bashir on warrants issued by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Chinese officials did not say why Mr. Bashir's flight was delayed or when he was expected to arrive.
In an interview with Chinese media ahead of the visit, Mr. Bashir praised China for helping his country to blunt the impact of U.S.-led economic sanctions.
He also told the official Xinhua news agency that he expects Beijing to continue to have good relations with both northern and southern Sudan after the regions separate on July 9. Mr. Bashir was expected to discuss the split in talks with Mr. Hu.
In his interview, Mr. Bashir said Sudan found a "true partner" in China after Western oil companies were limited from working in Sudan by sanctions imposed because of fighting in Darfur. He said China is funding and implementing many projects in Sudan, surprising other African and Arab countries that had thought the sanctions would make it impossible for Sudan to extract its oil.
He said the success of the Sino-Sudanese relationship is leading other African countries to search for "the real and loyal partner." He also said the establishment of Chinese relations with the new state in southern Sudan - which will inherit a large part of Sudan's oil reserves - will not detract from relations with Khartoum.
The ICC wants to try Mr. Bashir for crimes against humanity over his government's handling of the uprising in Darfur, in which an estimated 300,000 people have died. The Sudanese president canceled a planned visit to Malaysia this month after its government came under pressure to arrest him.