Northern and southern Sudan leaders are yet to agree on how to split the oil sector, raising fears of violence [AFP]

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has said his country's relations with China will not be weakened by Beijing's ties with South Sudan.

In remarks made on Monday ahead of his four-day visit to China, Bashir said he was not troubled by Beijing's dual loyalties.

"Our policy, and also China's, stands on the principle that each country is free to adopt the procedures and build relations in the manner that preserves its interests and relations," he told China's official Xinhua news agency.

"Therefore, even if China has established relations with the south Sudan state, that will definitely not be a deduction on its relations with the north," he said.

Bashir's visit to China, a major buyer of Sudanese crude oil, comes days before South Sudan is to split from the north and become the world's newest sovereign nation.

South Sudan's secession on July 9 is likely to feature in Bashir's talks with Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart. 
 
Beijing has been building ties with the emerging state in southern Sudan but continues to be one of the major supporters of Bashir, who faces indictment from the International Criminal Court over war crimes charges stemming from long-running fighting in the Darfur region.

Analysts expect Bashir to use his visit to assure Chinese leaders that their investments and energy stake in Sudan will not be threatened by the north-south split.

China praised

Bashir praised Sino-Sudanese relations as a "model" for developing countries, and lauded China's role as an investor in oil projects shunned by Western companies, whose home governments have imposed sanctions on Khartoum.

"When the American companies refused to work in the oil field and when restrictions were imposed on the Western companies operating in Sudan, we found in China the real partner," Bashir said.

"In fact, we have received a better offer from China than that of the Western companies."

Beijing has been encouraging a smooth transition along Sudan's volatile north-south border and hopes to ensure that its oil supplies are not interrupted.

Khartoum seized the main town in the north-south border region of Abyei on May 21, raising fears the two sides could return to conflict.

But Sudan's military and the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army last week agreed to withdraw their forces in favour of Ethiopian peacekeepers.

Source: Agencies