Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Being Greeted By Chinese Official After Arriving in Beijing for the Sino-African Summit
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
6:47 MECCA TIME, 3:47 GMT
China to support Darfur mission
The UN says more than 200,000 people in Darfur have died and 2.5 million displaced since 2003
China has confirmed that it is planning to send military engineers to Sudan to support a planned United Nations deployment of peacekeepers in Darfur.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said the detachment would help implement the deployment of UN peacekeepers alongside the struggling African Union (AU) force already in the region.
"China is willing to work with the rest of the international community for peace and stability in Darfur at an early date," Jiang Yu told reporters at a regular weekly briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
Earlier, in an unusual step before any word from China on the matter, the US state department said that Beijing had agreed to send hundreds of engineers to Darfur.
"We appreciate China's contribution in the international effort to stop the violence in Darfur," state department press officer Gonzalo Gallegos said in Washington on Monday.
He said the US saw the Chinese move as a "positive development".
An unnamed US official who spoke on condition that he not be named said there would be about 300 Chinese in the contingent.
Gallegos said the engineers will help prepare for the arrival of a hybrid force of 3,000 UN and African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Darfur to bolster the struggling AU force already there.
China has close ties to Sudan which has become a major supplier of oil for its booming economy.
Critics, however, have accused Beijing of using its veto power at the UN to defend the Sudanese government, and put pressure on Beijing to use its influence to persuade Khartoum to allow greater international intervention to stop the violence in Darfur.
Following Tuesday's confirmation of China's deployment, Jiang fended off questions about reports that China was continuing to sell arms to Sudan, saying that China has strict rules about its arms exports.
She said some activists' accusations were "totally unreasonable" and they were "exploiting the Olympic Games to put pressure on China".
Some human rights groups have called for a boycott of the Beijing 2008 Olympics unless China does more to put pressure on Sudan.
According to the UN more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since violence first broke out in the troubled region in 2003.
Under the UN plan another 17,000 troops are due to follow the initial deployment, although the Sudanese government has yet to agree to the larger force.
Gallegos said the US was looking to China to "to use its significant leverage in Khartoum to make this happen as soon as possible".
The Bush administration has warned of the possibility of additional sanctions against Sudan if the government in Khartoum continues to refuse to accept the full UN force.