Chinese officials say they will push forward with military cooperation with Sudan, despite accusations Khartoum supports militias that have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Sudan's Darfur region. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
Western nations have long urged Beijing to use its influence with Sudan to get U.N. peacekeepers into the war-torn Darfur region, but China has instead used its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to prevent stronger condemnation of Khartoum.
This week, Beijing moved to strengthen ties with Sudan. During a visit by Sudan's military chief to Beijing, China's minister of defense said his government is willing to further develop cooperation between the two militaries in "every sphere."
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang Tuesday urged Sudan to be more flexible on the deployment of U.N. troops. But he indicated China would not support tougher measures against Khartoum.
"We think Sudan's territorial integrity and sovereignty should be respected and a political solution should be found to the Darfur issue through equal dialogue and discussions," he said.
China is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil and a major source of weapons for Khartoum.
U.N. reports say the Sudanese government supports militias that have raped and killed about 200,000 people in Darfur and driven millions from their homes during a four-year civil war.
Washington and London want stronger sanctions imposed against Khartoum for atrocities committed in Darfur, which the United States has called genocide.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir agreed in November to gradually allow 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur to support overwhelmed African Union troops. But Mr. al-Bashir has delayed negotiations on the deployment and now indicates he will only accept technical and logistical support from the United Nations.
On Sunday gunmen killed five AU peacekeepers along the border between Darfur and Chad. It was the deadliest attack since the peacekeepers were deployed to Darfur.
China's relationship with Sudan has prompted human rights activists to call for a boycott of the Summer Olympics being held in Beijing in 2008.