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China Discusses Darfur Prosecution

China says it is in discussions with various countries about the International Criminal Court's expected prosecution of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been accused of war crimes in his country's troubled Darfur region.

China is Sudan's biggest foreign investor. Because of its economic ties, it is also often seen as being one of the African nation's biggest defenders, in the face of international criticism over Sudanese government involvement in the Darfur conflict.

In July, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked judges to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The prosecutor accused him of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.

International analysts say fighting in Darfur, between rebel groups and government-backed militia groups, has already killed more than 200,000 people.

China's special envoy on the Darfur crisis, Liu Guijin, is in Khartoum, meeting with Sudanese officials.

Earlier this week, reports quoted Liu as saying a war crimes indictment against the Sudanese president would have a disastrous impact on the Darfur conflict. Liu is also quoted as calling for a postponement of the indictment, so the international community has more time to address the problem.

If the ICC does indict President Bashir, it would be its first prosecution of a sitting president. A decision on the arrest warrant is expected in the next few weeks.

At a regular briefing in Beijing, Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang did not confirm the Chinese envoy's comments. But he urged the ICC to keep in mind the importance of maintaining stability in Sudan.

Qin stresses that the realization of any judicial justice in Darfur requires enduring peace and stability in Sudan.

He says China is working to decide on what he describes as the "next step" and its "further position on this issue."

Before going to Sudan, the Chinese envoy held talks on the issue with officials in Russia, a fellow permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Later in the week, the Chinese official heads to Sudan's neighbor Ethiopia, for further discussions on the Darfur issue.