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US Urges China to Use Its Growing Influence to Help Ease Conflicts


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is calling on China to use its expanding role in world trade and politics to help ease the problems of Africa, especially Sudan. U.S. diplomat met with Chinese officials on Tuesday in Beijing.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said he came to China to suggest ways the country can play a positive role while integrating itself into the international system.

China has been on a worldwide search for new sources of oil to fuel its rapidly expanding economy, something Zoellick said the United States understands.

"It's natural that as China becomes a larger economy, that it engages in the global system," said Robert Zoellick.

China has come in for international criticism for dealing with governments with poor human rights records, for the sake of gaining access to oil.

Zoellick says he sees the energy deals as a chance for Beijing to help resolve problems in places like Africa. He says a current example is the case of Sudan, which is struggling to implement a peace accord signed last year to end a decades-old conflict between the Arab-led government in the North and non-Arab rebels in the South.

"I believe that as China develops its relationship with Sudan, it also gives it an opportunity to help it deal with some of the problems like the North-South accord," he said. "Because in this case, there's also energy reserves in the south that could help China develop good relationships with the SPLM [Sudan People's Liberation Movement] in the south. Similarly, there's a possibility for China to work with the African Union, the European Union, and others dealing with the problems in Darfur."

Zoellick's remarks follow his calls last September for China to view itself as a "stakeholder" in global affairs as its profile in the world rises.

On the matter of Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. official told reporters the United States is trying to avoid any confrontation with Tehran. He said that is why Washington is working with Russia and others on the U.N. Security Council to make it clear to Iran that developing a nuclear weapons program would not be - in his words - "a positive development."

Also on Zoellick's agenda in Beijing were discussions on an upcoming visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States. U.S. officials on Tuesday announced the trip is scheduled for April.