China urges patience on Sudan, opposes sanctions

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING, May 31 (Reuters) - China urged the international community on Thursday to show patience with Sudan over the strife in its Darfur region, as an advocacy group called on Beijing to take more action to pressure Khartoum.

The United States imposed unilateral sanctions on Sudan this week and sought support for an international arms embargo out of frustration at Sudan's refusal to end what President George W. Bush called the genocide in Darfur.

But China said on Thursday new sanctions would hurt efforts to implement a U.N. peace plan for the western Sudanese region.

"New sanctions against Sudan would only complicate the issue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing. "China appeals to all parties to maintain restraint and patience."

Beijing, which has veto power on the U.N. Security Council, is a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, sells Khartoum weapons and has invested heavily in its infrastructure.

It also opposes sending U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur, where the United Nations estimates that fighting by government-linked militias and rebel groups has killed 200,000 people and forced 2 million more to flee their homes, without Khartoum's consent.

But the Save Darfur Coalition, one of the most vocal advocacy groups for the region, urged more tangible action from Beijing, host city of the 2008 Olympics,in a series of full-page print advertisements in major U.S. newspapers and Chinese-language publications.


"While China prepares to host the 2008 summer games, its failure to stop the Sudanese government's slaughter in Darfur remains shamefully unacceptable," read the ad.

"As Sudan's chief diplomatic sponsor, major weapons provider, and largest foreign investor and trade partner, China has more power than any other nation to convince Sudan to halt the slaughter and stop blocking U.N. peacekeepers," it said.

The advertisement features a black-and-white photo of a hand holding a starting pistol at a running track alongside one of an African man holding an assault rifle, with the slogan "Beijing Games. Darfur Massacre. China's Only Publicising Its Role In One."

Chinese officials reject criticism that its ties with Sudan are abetting the bloodshed. Beijing says it has been engaging the government on Darfur and encouraging it to be more flexible about accepting a U.N. force.

"Relevant parties are making joint efforts to win positive achievements on the Darfur issue," Jiang said.

Sudan has agreed in principle to the "Annan peace plan", which proposes sending in U.N. troops to bolster an African Union peacekeeping force, but has delayed implementing the package.

The Save Darfur Coalition said the delays were fuelling continuing violence.

"Sudan has used a series of delaying tactics, and outright false actions, to prevent the deployment of the needed peacekeeping force," the group said in a statement.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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