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S. Sudan leader cuts China visit short

By AFP
By AFP

4/25/2012 12:00:01 PM -

BEIJING (AFP) - South Sudan's president will cut short his visit to China due to "domestic issues", a Chinese official said Wednesday, as violence between the world's newest nation and Sudan intensified.

The curtailment of South Sudan President Salva Kiir's visit to China was confirmed by Wu Bangguo, nominally the second-ranking Chinese leader, during a meeting between the two men in Beijing.

"It is unfortunate that you have to shorten your stay in China due to domestic issues and are not going to Shanghai," Wu told Kiir as the two men began talks in the presence of journalists.

Neither of the two made further reference to the decision before reporters covering the start of their meeting were ushered from the room.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin had earlier told reporters that Kiir, who arrived in China late Monday, had cancelled a scheduled visit to Shanghai but did not give a reason.

The cancellation of the rest of the visit comes amid worsening tensions back home with neighbouring Sudan that prompted Kiir, in a Tuesday meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, to accuse China's ally Khartoum of declaring war on his country.

Kiir's visit to China had been scheduled to continue to Saturday.

In the latest bout of violence between Sudan and South Sudan -- which gained independence last July -- at least 16 civilians were killed and 34 others wounded in Sudanese air raids on its neighbour's Unity state.

Liu also said Zhong Jianhua -- China's special representative on African affairs -- would visit the two countries to "promote peace talks".

China has been a key ally and the largest economic partner of diplomatically isolated Khartoum.

But the south's split from Sudan in July 2011 and recent clashes have forced a Chinese juggling act to maintain support for Khartoum while not alienating the south, the source of most of former Sudan's oil.