Mon, Aug 27, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Merkel to discuss Darfur during Beijing visit

AFP , BERLIN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she would discuss Darfur as well as human rights issues in China with leaders in Beijing during an upcoming trip to Asia.

"We will of course speak about how we can combat the terrible human rights violations in Sudan, in the Darfur region," Merkel said.

"We have economic and political relations that are so close that we can naturally discuss questions that are maybe conflicting," such as human rights in China, she said.

Germany and China have developed "very intense and close" relations, Merkel said.

Merkel was to leave yesterday and will be in China until Wednesday for talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶). She will then move on for her first visit to Japan, during which she will be greeted by Emperor Akihito and meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a three-day stay.

China, which is by far the largest foreign investor in Sudan and absorbs almost two-thirds of its oil output, has been under mounting pressure to use its clout with Khartoum when it comes to the conflict in the western region of Darfur.

The war began in February 2003 when rebels from minority tribes took up arms to demand an equal share of national resources, prompting a heavyhanded crackdown by government forces and its proxy Janjaweed militia.

The UN estimates that at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced by the combined effect of war and famine since the conflict erupted.

Amnesty International called on Merkel to push for concrete commitments on human rights improvements in her talks with Chinese officials.

Barbara Lochbihler, head of Amnesty International's German branch, said in an interview with German newspaper Neue Osnabrucke Zeitung that she feared China would increase the number of arrests and death sentences in the run up to next year's Beijing Olympics.

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