Delayed Sudan leader Omar al-Bashir arrives in China

President Omar al-Bashir (file photo) Rights groups say Omar al-Bashir's visit could make China a "safe haven" for genocide suspects

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in China a day after his plane turned back with no explanation.

Mr Bashir's scheduled meeting with China's President Hu Jintao on Monday was cancelled as his flight was rescheduled.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir, accusing him of war crimes during the conflict in Darfur.

Human rights groups say China should not have invited Mr Bashir.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his government had every right to invite Mr Bashir, as it is not a signatory to the ICC treaty.

"China has reserved its opinion towards the International Criminal Court lawsuit against President Omar al-Bashir," he said.

"President Bashir has been visiting other countries on a number of occasions and has been warmly welcomed by those countries."

Oil links

On Sunday, Mr Bashir's plane set off from Tehran - where Mr Bashir had attended an anti-terrorism conference - only to return several hours later.

"The presidential plane was flying over Turkmenistan on Sunday, when they chose a new route," the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by Sudan's official Suna news agency.

No official reason has been given for the delay; AP reported there had been confusion over the flight plan.

Mr Bashir is now expected to meet Mr Hu on Wednesday.

Amnesty International said if China did not arrest Mr Bashir, the country would become a "safe haven for alleged perpetrators of genocide".

The ICC has charged Mr Bashir with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide over alleged atrocities in Darfur.

China is a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, and has expressed concern that the arrest warrant could destabilise Sudan further.

Since the ICC issued its arrest warrant, Mr Bashir has visited countries including Eritrea, Egypt, Libya and Qatar - none of whom are signed up to the ICC.

He also visited Kenya, which decided not to detain him despite being a signatory to the ICC's treaty.

The treaty obliges signatories to detain anyone wanted by the court.

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