( AFP ) - A group of British politicians called Monday on China to use its role as host of the 2008 Olympic Games to put pressure on Sudan over the Darfur conflict and to stop selling weapons to its government.
In a letter delivered to the Chinese embassy, 100 current and former lawmakers pressed Beijing to back a peacekeeping force for Darfur and review its arms policy, to stop the sale of Chinese weapons to the African country.
"The 2008 Olympics will celebrate the dramatic transformation undergone by China," said former foreign minister David Owen. "Over the coming months, China has a real opportunity to exert global leadership on Darfur.
" Beijing's active involvement in providing for an effective peacekeeping force and bringing an end to the suffering would be the ideal prelude to a successful games," he added.
China, which is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil, has been attempting to play down accusations it is worsening Darfur's agony by supporting the Sudanese government.
Beijing has also stepped up efforts to counter criticism of its human rights record ahead of next year's Olympic Games.
Lord Glentoran, a former Olympic bobsledding champion, said China should seize the opportunity to show its commitment to rights.
"If the Chinese government used their status as hosts of the 2008 Olympic Games to put pressure on (Sudan) to stop the war and suffering in Darfur, it would be a wonderful example of the Olympic power for good," said Glentoran, who under his pre-ennoblement name Robin Dixon won a bobsledding gold in 1964.
In the letter, the British lawmakers welcome China's action in support of UN action in Darfur.
"However, much more must be done to ensure civilian protection in Darfur," they added.
" China is in a key position to now persuade the government of Sudan to withdraw immediately from its well-documented support for attacks on civilians."