Mon, Nov 26, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Chinese force arrives in Darfur

GO HOME Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement rebels, said the Chinese engineers were not welcome in Darfur because Beijing is only interested in oil

AGENCIES , KHARTOUM

Chinese peacekeepers arrive at Nyala, Sudan, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

More than 130 Chinese engineers arrived in Sudan's war-torn Darfur on Saturday as part of the vanguard for a joint African Union (AU)-UN peacekeeping mission to be in place next year, a UN spokesman said.

But the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group said it would not allow the engineers onto land held by its forces. It accused Beijing of stoking the crisis by supporting Khartoum.

"They are not welcome ... They can never come into our area," JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said.

"We oppose them coming because China is not interested in human rights. It is just interested in Sudan's resources. We are calling on them to quit Sudan, especially the petroleum areas," he said.

China has advised Sudan to cooperate with UN efforts to resolve the crisis but remains its largest arms supplier, with sales increasing 25-fold between 2002 and 2005. Total trade rose 124 percent in the first half of this year compared to last year.

JEM attacked a Chinese oil installation last month in the central Sudanese region of Kordofan, but Ibrahim declined to comment on whether it would target the engineers.

"I am not saying I will attack them. I will not say I will not attack them. What I am saying is that they are taking our oil for blood," he said.

"China has so far only offered US$1 million for displaced Darfur people. Meanwhile they are sucking a million barrels of oil out of Sudan every day. We do not welcome them," Ibrahim said.

The rebels have said they would welcome peacekeepers from any country but China. But Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Friday insisted China and Pakistan were the only non-African countries he would accept.

The widely read Sudan Tribune Web site on Saturday said the Chinese units were also opposed by Darfur's displaced people.

Hussein Abusharati, spokesman for Darfur Internationally Displaced People, told the Paris-based site that he rejected Beijing's involvement because "genocide and robbery are taking place in Darfur since 2003 thanks to Chinese weapons."

UN spokesman Ali Hamati said the Chinese engineers and medical officers arrived in Nyala at 10:30am wearing the blue berets and scarves of UN peacekeepers, the first of a 315-strong contingent promised by Beijing.

They will build bridges and roads and dig wells to prepare the ground for the 26,000 peacekeepers due from January onwards.

The hybrid force is supposed to replace a beleaguered 7,000 strong troop of AU peacekeepers which is trying to maintain security in Darfur, roughly the size of France.

Ten AU peacekeepers were killed during a raid on their base in the eastern Darfur town of Haskanita in September. Ibrahim later blamed a breakaway faction of JEM for the attack.

Since February 2003, more than 200,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease in western Sudan's Darfur region, while 2.2 million others have been left homeless.

China, which is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil, has been accused of shielding Khartoum -- accused of fanning the violence in Darfur -- from international sanctions.

The Sudanese government, while objecting to troops from Nepal, Scandinavia and Thailand, has welcomed the Chinese mission to Darfur.

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