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China Rejects Linkage of Darfur Crisis With Olympic Games 


China has cried foul at efforts by international activists to link the Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing in August, to the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region. The activists blame the Sudanese government for the crisis, but accuse China of being Khartoum's biggest international supporter. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

There were several high-profile events this week aimed at drawing international attention to China's role in Sudan.

For four years, Khartoum-backed militias have been battling rebels in the Sudanese region of Darfur. International estimates say 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes, mostly by the government-backed militias.

China is Sudan's largest international customer for oil, but despite international criticism, has made little public effort to pressure the Sudanese government into ending the Darfur crisis.

On Wednesday, nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, urging his government to put more pressure on Sudan to reach a lasting peace settlement in Darfur. Activists also held protests Wednesday in front of the Chinese mission at the United Nations in New York.

Another wrinkle came from Hollywood, where film director Steven Spielberg announced he is quitting as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympic Games because China is doing too little to help halt the bloodshed in Darfur.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China regrets Spielberg's decision not to help with the games.

Liu says he is confident the Chinese people will be able to carry out a successful Olympics, nonetheless.

The spokesman called the Olympics a major world event, and said he hopes it is not disturbed by political issues.

He says linking political issues with the Olympics is not in line with the spirit of the Games or the good wishes of people around the world.

Liu says China is concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, but believes that what he described as "empty rhetoric" will not help the situation.

He says China has been making efforts to play a constructive role in ending the crisis. He says these efforts include sending millions of dollars in money and materials to help resolve the Darfur conflict. China is also providing 315 engineers for the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force deployed there.

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