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China pushes Sudan to let UN troops into Darfur

Written by: Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 (Reuters) China has been lobbying Sudan to let a UN peacekeeping force into Sudan's Darfur region, Beijing's UN ambassador said today, despite his country's earlier reluctance to pressure one of its oil suppliers.

The United Nations warns of a looming humanitarian disaster in Darfur, where a small and ill-equipped African Union force of about 7,000 has been unable to protect civilians.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya told Reuters his government had been pressing Sudan both in Beijing and Khartoum.

''We sent a message to them that we feel the UN taking over is a good idea, but it is up to them to agree to that,'' Wang said.

The United States and Britain have led a campaign in the 15-nation UN Security Council to send a UN force of more than 20,000 troops and police to Sudan's remote west, to take over from the African Union force.

But China, which buys Sudanese oil and sells it arms, has been hesitant in the council along with Russia and Qatar, and the Khartoum government has flatly rejected UN soldiers.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir reaffirmed his opposition today, accusing the United Nations of intending to ''recolonize'' his country.

During a brief visit to Gambia in West Africa, Bashir said the existing AU force was successful and should remain there.

Wang denied that China's lobbying of Sudan represented a shift in its position.

''From the beginning it is always our position,'' he said.

''We said it is a good idea to have the UN taking over. But in the meanwhile, I think it is a general practice that when the U.N. sends troops, you have to have the consent of the government, so now we need the second part.'' ''We are not imposing on them. We need to have them consider it and agree to it,'' he said.

China, Russia and Qatar abstained last month on a Security Council resolution authorizing a U.N. deployment in Darfur pending the government's consent. The three countries argued the resolution was being pushed through too quickly.

Tens of thousands have been killed and 2.5 million people forced from their homes in 3 1/2 years of fighting in Darfur, which Washington has labeled as genocide.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the council on Monday the government was bombing Darfur and sending thousands of its troops into the area in ''clear violation'' of a peace deal signed in May by the government and one rebel group.

REUTERS LL HS2232

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