China backs sovereign immunity after U.S. Sept.11 bill becomes law

October 10, 2016 6:39 AM EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A country's domestic law should not supersede international law on anti-terrorism cooperation, China said on Monday, after the U.S. Congress last month approved a bill that allows relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

Congress on Sept. 28 overwhelmingly rejected President Barack Obama's veto of the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" (JASTA), the first veto override of his presidency, meaning the legislation will become U.S. law.

Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States were Saudi nationals, though Riyadh has always dismissed suspicions that it backed the attackers, who killed nearly 3,000 people under the banner of Islamist militant group al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' longest-standing allies in the Arab world, has said the law is a threat to a leading principle that has regulated international relations for hundreds of years preventing lawsuits against sovereign governments.

China's Foreign Ministry said its opposes all forms of terrorism and supports the international community on anti-terrorism cooperation, but that such efforts should respect international relations.

"China believes international anti-terrorism cooperation should ... respect international law and principles of international relations, including fundamental principles of nations' sovereign equality," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

"It should not put any country's domestic laws above international law and should not link terrorism with any specific country, religion or ethnicity," Geng told reporters at a regular press briefing.

He did not mention Saudi Arabia or the Sept. 11 attacks.

China says its people and assets at home and around the world face a growing risk from terrorism, but also insists it follows a foreign policy of non-interference in other countries' affairs.

As China's state-owned enterprises have expanded their footprints abroad, China has frequently cited sovereign immunity in its defense when it has been the targets of law suits overseas, including in the United States.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)



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