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China Calls for Sudanese 'Flexibility' on Darfur Peacekeepers


The Chinese government says it is urging Sudan to be more flexible in allowing U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. A spokeswoman in Beijing says China's new special envoy for Africa pressed the Khartoum government on the issue during his just-completed trip to the region. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's special representative, Liu Guijin, has returned to China after a five-day visit to Sudan that included meetings with Sudanese leaders and stops at Darfur refugee camps.

China's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Liu commended Sudanese leaders for working to improve the situation in Darfur, but also pressed Khartoum to implement former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan to get U.N. peacekeepers into the region.

"(The Chinese side) also hopes the Sudan side can exert more flexibility in implementing the Annan plan, speed up and press ahead with Darfur's political progress and further improve the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur," Jiang said.

Khartoum has agreed in principle to the Annan plan, but has refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur to aid overwhelmed African Union forces already in the region.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and two million made homeless during four years of conflict in Darfur, where government-backed militias have been accused of genocide and mass rapes.

China has been accused of using its veto in the U.N. Security Council to block international pressure on Sudan to allow a stronger U.N. peacekeeping force.

China is a major buyer of Sudanese oil and supplier of weapons to Khartoum. The Beijing government has come under international pressure to use its influence to press Sudan on Darfur.

China has become more vocal in publicly pressing Sudan to allow U.N. peacekeepers, but maintains a deployment must have the consent of Khartoum.

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