China using "leverage" to push for peace in Sudan, envoy says
(dpa) - China is using its links with the Sudanese government to push for peace in southern Sudan, the Chinese government's envoy to Darfur said on Friday.
"We have a good relationship with Sudan and use it as leverage to give advice," Liu Guijin told reporters in Beijing after visiting Sudan last week.
Liu admitted that "political progress is slow" but he said China's policy for reaching a settlement in Sudan agreed in principle with those of Western nations.
"I don't think there are fundamental differences," he said, acknowledging minor differences with Western governments on the priorities and the way of achieving a settlement. 0 Liu said the main purpose of his visit to Sudan was to inspect preparations for the "hybrid" United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
China has not yet considered sending combat troops to support the mission but could consider it in the future, he said.
After initial misgivings, it has agreed to send 315 military engineers to join peacekeepers in Darfur.
The Chinese troops' main role is to build roads and bridges, dig wells and complete other infrastructure projects for the mission, state media quoted Chinese defence official Dai Shao'an as saying on Thursday.
Liu again defended China's economic cooperation with the Sudanese government and said the linking of the humanitarian crisis in Sudan with this year's Beijing Olympics was "not reasonable."
He said calls for a boycott of the games over China's role in Sudan displayed a "Cold War mentality."
"In the long-run it will damage the Olympic spirit," Liu said of the movement to link Darfur to the games.
Liu said he was "very surprised" by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's decision to withdraw from an advisory role in the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies because of concerns over Darfur.
He defended China's oil cooperation and "limited" weapons sales to Sudan, saying the oil projects had "boosted the economy" and were not in Darfur.
Rights groups and activists continue to criticize China for its role in Sudan, but many Western politicians have praised it for promoting peace there.
During a visit to China in late February, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thanked President Hu Jintao for China's "positive efforts" on Darfur, state television said.