Chinese President Hu Jintao (
In what appeared to be China's bluntest message to Sudan on the Darfur crisis, Hu urged President Omar al-Bashir in a face-to-face meeting on Friday to boost the UN's "constructive role in realizing peace in Darfur" along with the African Union, the official Sudan news agency SUNA reported.
China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil and is the largest investor in the country, giving it some leverage with al-Bashir's government. Sudan has defied a UN Security Council call for the underpowered African Union mission of 7,000 troops in the western region of Darfur to be taken over by a UN operation of 22,000 peacekeepers.
China usually refuses to mix human rights issues with diplomacy, but Hu has come under international pressure to use his clout with Sudan to push it to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur.
Sudanese officials briskly ushered journalists out of the room on Friday when Hu began voicing his expectations on Darfur to al-Bashir. Later, a Sudanese official told the Associated Press that Hu had told al-Bashir his government "should work more earnestly to get the rebels who did not sign the Darfur peace agreement to join the peace process."
The government signed the peace agreement with one rebel group last May, but other rebels rejected the accord as inadequate and the conflict escalated.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol insisted that Hu's words on Darfur were not hostile.
Akol told reporters after the meeting that Sudan was willing to see the mixed UN and African Union force deployed in Darfur "as soon as funding and troops were secured."
Diplomats in Khartoum said Hu's position on Darfur could be linked to Chinese concerns about Sudan's stability, as well as that of neighboring Chad.
Sudan wanted to draw attention to the trade and investment side of its relationship with China.
After meeting him at the airport, al-Bashir took Hu to the Chinese-built Friendship Hall, where they signed several accords. China undertook to build schools and a new presidential palace, reduced import tariffs on some Sudanese goods, granted a loan of 600 million yuan (US$77.4 million) for infrastructure and gave a grant of a US$40 million.
The SUNA agency said China also canceled debts of 470 million yuan (US$60.7 million) and US$19 million (euro14.6 million).
``China is more fair than the West in dealing with Sudan and its policy has helped boost both business and peace in the country,'' said al-Bashir, who pointedly praised Beijing for not interfering in the political affairs of African countries.
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