Home | News    Wednesday 7 February 2007

China told Sudan to adopt UN’s Darfur plan - envoy

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Feb 6, 2007 (UNITED NATIONS) — China’s President Hu Jintao broke with his government’s traditional policy of non-interference in a nation’s internal affairs by telling Sudan last week to accept a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur, China’s ambassador said.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, right, walks with Chinese President Hu Jintao upon his arrival in Khartoum, Sudan Friday, Feb. 2, 2007 (AP)

"Usually China doesn’t send messages, but this time they did,’’ Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said. "It was a clear strong message that the proposal from Kofi Annan is a good one and Sudan has to accept it.’’

Sudan agreed "in principle’’ in November to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan to send a UN-AU peacekeeping force of about 20,000 soldiers and police to Darfur. Two months later, Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir still hasn’t made a final decision on accepting them.

On his second trip to Sudan in less than a year, Hu signed a series of aid agreements with Sudan and visited the 100,000 barrel-a-day Khartoum oil refinery in which the China National Petroleum Corp. has a 50 percent stake. Chinese investment in Sudanese oil production and pipelines has accelerated the country’s crude output to more than 500,000 barrels a day in six years. Sudan now supplies China with about 8 percent of its oil, and its output is rising.

Hu didn’t use those trade relations to pressure Sudan, according to Wang, who said China "never twists arms.’’ Still, Wang said Sudan "got the message’’ and Chinese envoy Li Junhua said that, while Bashir didn’t unambiguously accept the AU-UN force, he was ``very forthcoming’’ in his private talks with Hu.

500,000 Dead

The conflict in Darfur has caused the deaths of as many as 500,000 people, according to Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts who has testified before the U.S. Congress. It began four years ago when rebels demanding a larger share of Sudan’s political power and oil wealth began attacking the government. The government in turn organized a force to assault rebel villages.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the Security Council today on his own recent trip to Africa, telling envoys that he was told Hu’s visit to Khartoum was ``successful.’’

Ban and the Security Council are waiting now for the outcome of a Feb. 12 trip to Khartoum by UN envoy Jan Eliasson and Salim Salim, the AU’s chief negotiator. They’re also waiting for Bashir’s response to Ban’s letter requesting formal approval of the joint force and to a meeting with AU Commissioner Alpha Oumar Konare within the next month.

"I sensed a general sense of frustration across the Security Council,’’ U.S. Acting Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told reporters after hearing from Ban.

"There was a sense that we have been dealing with this for many, many months and continue to find ourselves stymied by questions and stalling tactics on the part of the Sudanese government,’’ Wolf said. "Time is running out and we need to move forward.’’

(Bloomberg)

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