Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Story of the Day-Darfur conflict
The Darfur conflict is an ongoing armed conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
The Darfur conflict is a complex crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan. One side of the armed conflict is composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited mostly from the tribes of the northern Rizeigat, camel-herding nomads of Arab descent. The other side comprises a variety of rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, recruited primarily from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit ethnic groups. The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, has provided money and assistance to the militia and has participated in joint attacks targeting the land-tilling tribes from which the Darfuri rebels draw support. The conflict began in February 2003. Unlike in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which was fought between the primarily Muslim north and Christian and Animist south, almost all of the combatants and victims in Darfur are Muslim.
The government and Janjaweed attacks upon the non-Baggara civilian populace has resulted in a major humanitarian crisis. There are many casualty estimates, most concurring on a range within the hundreds of thousands. The United Nations (UN) estimates that the conflict has left as many as 450,000 dead from violence and disease. Most NGOs (non-governmental organizations) use 200,000 to over 400,000, a figure from the Coalition for International Justice that has since been cited by the UN. Sudan's government claims that 9,000 people have been killed, however this figure is seen as counterfactual. As many as 2.5 million are thought to have been displaced as of October 2006.  (See Counting deaths section, below)
The mass media once described the conflict as both "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide," and now do so without hesitation. The United States government has described it as genocide, although the UN has declined to do so. (See List of declarations of genocide in Darfur) In March 2007 the U.N. mission accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there.
After fighting worsened in July and August 2006, on August 31, 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1706 which called for a new 17,300-troop UN peacekeeping force to supplant or supplement a poorly funded, ill-equipped 7,000-troop African Union Mission in Sudan peacekeeping force. Sudan strongly objected to the resolution and said that it would see the UN forces in the region as foreign invaders. The next day, the Sudanese military launched a major offensive in the region. (See New proposed UN peacekeeping force) In the meantime, the conflict expanded into part of the broader Central African War.
Q&A: Sudan's Darfur conflict
The African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Darfur is struggling to halt widespread abuses and violence, but Sudan is rejecting plans for it to hand over to a larger, stronger UN mission, prompting the US to extend sanctions.
More than two million people are living in camps after fleeing almost four years of fighting in the region and they would be even more vulnerable without any peacekeepers.
Sudan's government and the pro-government Arab militias are accused of war crimes against the region's black African population, although the UN has stopped short of calling it genocide.
Sudan also rejects moves by the International Criminal Court to name and then try war crimes suspects.
How did the conflict start?
The conflict began in the arid and impoverished region early in 2003 after a rebel group began attacking government targets, saying the region was being neglected by Khartoum.
The rebels say the government is oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.
Darfur, which means land of the Fur, has faced many years of tension over land and grazing rights between the mostly nomadic Arabs, and farmers from the Fur, Massaleet and Zagawa communities.
There are two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), although the peace talks were complicated by splits in both groups, some along ethnic lines.
The groups opposed to May 2006 peace deal with the government have now merged into the National Redemption Front led by former Darfur governor Ahmed Diraige.
What is the government doing?
It admits mobilising "self-defence militias" following rebel attacks but denies any links to the Janjaweed, accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from large swathes of territory.
Refugees from Darfur say that following air raids by government aircraft, the Janjaweed ride into villages on horses and camels, slaughtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they can find.
Many women report being abducted by the Janjaweed and held as sex slaves for more than a week before being released.
The US and some human rights groups say that genocide is taking place - though a UN investigation team sent to Sudan said that while war crimes had been committed, there had been no intent to commit genocide.
Sudan's government denies being in control of the Janjaweed and President Omar al-Bashir has called them "thieves and gangsters".
After strong international pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government promised to disarm the Janjaweed. But so far there is little evidence this has happened.
Trials have been announced in Khartoum of some members of the security forces suspected of abuses - but this is viewed as part of a campaign against UN-backed attempts to get some 50 key suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
What has happened to Darfur's civilians?
Millions have fled their destroyed villages, with many heading for camps near Darfur's main towns. But there is not enough food, water or medicine.
The Janjaweed patrol outside the camps and Darfurians say the men are killed and the women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water.
Some 200,000 have also sought safety in neighbouring Chad, but many of these are camped along a 600km stretch of the border and remain vulnerable to attacks from Sudan.
The refugees are also threatened by the diplomatic fallout between Chad and Sudan as the neighbours accuse one another of supporting each other's rebel groups.
Chad's eastern areas have a similar ethnic make-up to Darfur.
Many aid agencies are working in Darfur but they are unable to get access to vast areas because of the fighting.
How many have died?
With much of Darfur inaccessible to aid workers and researchers, calculating how many deaths there have been in the past three years is impossible.
What researchers have done is to estimate the deaths based on surveys in areas they can reach.
The latest research published in September 2006 in the journal Science puts the numbers of deaths above and beyond those that would normally die in this inhospitable area at "no fewer than 200,000".
The US researchers say that their figures are the most compelling and persuasive estimate to date. They have made no distinction between those dying as a result of violence and those dying as a result of starvation or disease in refugee camps.
Accurate figures are crucial in determining whether the deaths in Darfur are genocide or - as the Sudanese government says - the situation is being exaggerated.
What happened to the peace deal?
SLA leader Minni Minawi, who signed the May peace deal, was given a large budget, but his fighters have already been accused by Amnesty International of abuses against people in areas opposed to the peace deal.
The smaller SLA faction and Jem did not sign the deal.
There has been a dramatic increase in violence and displacement since the deal was signed.
With the peace deal looking unworkable and amid fears of renewed "all-out war", there appears little prospect of people returning to their villages for some time yet.
Is anyone trying to stop the fighting?
About 7,000 African Union troops have slowly been deployed in Darfur on a very limited mandate.
Experts say the soldiers are too few to cover an area the size of France, and the African Union says it does not have the money to fund the operation for much longer.
Sudan has resisted strong western diplomatic pressure for the UN to take control of the peacekeeping mission. The latest plan envisages a more than doubling of numbers and a hybrid force with much greater UN involvement but at present Sudan says it will allow just 3,000 extra troops.
In April 2006, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing sanctions against four Sudanese nationals accused of war crimes in Darfur that include two rebel leaders, a former air force chief, and a Janjaweed militia leader.
A dossier of evidence compiled by a UN commission has also been passed to the ICC in The Hague, along with the names of top war crimes suspects.
Will sanctions be imposed?
The US and the UK have long threatened international sanctions against Sudan, unless it agrees to having more UN peacekeepers in Darfur.
But such threats have so far achieved little, as Sudan's allies Russia and China have used their veto in the UN Security Council to block tough resolutions.
The US imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997 because of its previous ties to Osama Bin Laden. Under these, Sudanese firms cannot use US dollars, making international trade more difficult.
On 29 May 2007, the US announced fresh sanctions targeting Sudanese companies and individuals involved in the violence in Darfur.
It banned 30 Sudanese companies, mostly in the oil business, and three individuals from trading or banking with the US.
On the same day, President Bush also announced a push for new UN Security Council sanctions.
Women share tales of rape, violence in Darfur conflict
KALMA, Sudan — The seven women pooled money to rent a donkey and cart, then ventured out of the refugee camp to gather firewood, hoping to sell it for cash to feed their families. Instead, they say, in a wooded area just a few hours walk away, they were gang-raped, beaten and robbed.
Naked and devastated, they fled back to Kalma.
The women have no doubt who attacked them. They say the men's camels and their uniforms marked them as janjaweed — the Arab militiamen accused of terrorizing the mostly black African villagers of Sudan's Darfur region.
Their story, told to an Associated Press reporter and confirmed by other women and aid workers in the camp, provides a glimpse into the hell that Darfur has become as the Arab-dominated government battles a rebellion stoked by a history of discrimination and neglect.
Now in its fourth year, the conflict has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and rape is its regular byproduct, U.N. and other human-rights activists say.
Sudan's government denies arming and unleashing the janjaweed, and bristles at the charges of rape, saying its conservative Islamic society would never tolerate it.
It has agreed to let in 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers, but not the 22,000 mandated by the U.N. Security Council. It claims the force would be a spearhead for anti-Arab powers bent on plundering Sudan's oil.
Meanwhile, more than 200,000 civilians have died and 2.5 million are homeless out of Darfur's population of 6 million, the U.N. says, and a February report by the International Criminal Court alleges "mass rape of civilians who were known not to be participants in any armed conflict."
Kalma is a microcosm of the misery — a sprawling camp of mud huts and scrap-plastic tents where 100,000 people have taken refuge. It is so full of guns that overwhelmed African Union peacekeepers long ago fled, unable to protect it. It is so crowded that the government has tried to limit newcomers.
In Sudan, as in many Islamic countries, society views a sexual assault as a dishonor upon the woman's entire family. "Victims can face terrible ostracism," says Maha Muna, the U.N. coordinator on this issue in Sudan.
Some aid workers believe the janjaweed use rape to intimidate the rebels, their supporters and families. "It's a strategy of war," Muna said in an interview earlier this year.
Darfur: The Reality, the Agenda & the Proposed Solution
Darfur: Forget genocide, there's oil
by F William Engdahl**
To paraphrase the famous quip during the 1992 US presidential debates, when an unknown William Jefferson Clinton told then-president George Herbert Walker Bush, "It's the economy, stupid," the present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.
No. "It's the oil, stupid."
The case of Darfur, a forbidding piece of sun-parched real estate in the southern part of Sudan, illustrates the new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China's oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of - ironically - dollar diplomacy. With its more than US$1.2 trillion in mainly US dollar reserves at the Peoples' National Bank of China, Beijing is engaging in active petroleum geopolitics. Africa is a major focus, and in Africa, the central region between Sudan and Chad is a priority.
This is defining a major new front in what, since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, is a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing over control of major oil sources. So far Beijing has played its cards a bit more cleverly than Washington. Darfur is a major battleground in this high-stakes contest for oil control.
China oil diplomacy
In recent months, Beijing has embarked on a series of initiatives designed to secure long-term raw materials sources in one of the planet's most endowed regions - Sub-Saharan Africa. No raw material has higher priority in Beijing at present than oil.
Today China draws an estimated 30% of its crude oil from Africa. That explains an extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives which have left Washington furious. China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa's vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington's typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
In November last year Beijing hosted an extraordinary summit of 40 African heads of state. They literally rolled out the red carpet for the leaders of, among others, Algeria, Nigeria, Mali, Angola, Central African Republic, Zambia and South Africa.
China has just done an oil deal that links it with two of the continent's largest nations, Nigeria and South Africa. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) will lift oil in Nigeria, via a consortium that also includes South African Petroleum Co, giving China access to what could be 175,000 barrels a day by 2008. It's a $2.27 billion deal that gives state-controlled CNOOC a 45% stake in a large off-shore oil field in Nigeria. Previously, Nigeria had been considered in Washington to be an asset of the Anglo-American oil majors, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron.
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank. In 2006 China committed more than $8 billion to Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique, versus $2.3 billion to all sub-Saharan Africa from the World Bank. Ghana is negotiating a $1.2 billion Chinese electrification loan. Unlike the World Bank, a de facto arm of US foreign economic policy, China shrewdly attaches no strings to its loans.
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to "secure oil at the sources", something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
Sudan's oil riches
Beijing's China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is Sudan's largest foreign investor, with some $5 billion in oil field development. Since 1999 China has invested at least $15 billion in Sudan. It owns 50% of an oil refinery near Khartoum with the Sudan government. The oil fields are concentrated in the south, site of a long-simmering civil war, partly financed covertly by the United States to break the south from the Islamic Khartoum-centered north.
CNPC built an oil pipeline from southern Sudan to a new terminal at Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where the oil is loaded on tankers bound for China. Eight percent of China's oil now comes from
southern Sudan. China takes 65-80% of Sudan's 500,000 barrels/day production. Sudan last year was China's fourth-largest foreign oil source.
In 2006 China passed Japan to become the world's second-largest importer of oil after the United States, importing 6.5 million barrels a day of the black gold. With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.
A look at the southern Sudan oil concessions shows that China's CNPC holds rights to bloc 6, which straddles Darfur, near the border with Chad and the Central African Republic. In April 2005, Sudan's government announced that it had found oil in Southern Darfur, which is estimated to be able to pump 500,000 barrels per day when developed. The world press forgot to report that vital fact in discussing the Darfur conflict.
Move to militarize Sudan's oil region
Genocide was the preferred theme, and Washington was the orchestra conductor. Curiously, while all observers acknowledge that Darfur has seen a large human displacement and human misery, with tens of thousands or even as many as 300,000 deaths in the last several years, only Washington and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) close to it use the charged term "genocide" to describe Darfur. If they are able to get popular acceptance of the charge of genocide, it opens the possibility of drastic "regime change" intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - read Washington - in Sudan's sovereign affairs.
The genocide theme is being used, with full-scale Hollywood backing from the likes of stars like George Clooney, to orchestrate the case for de facto NATO occupation of the region. So far the Sudan government has vehemently refused, not surprisingly.
The US government repeatedly uses "genocide" to refer to Darfur. It is the only government to do so. US Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey, head of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said during a USINFO online interview last November 17, "The ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan - a gross violation of human rights - is among the top international issues of concern to the United States." The Bush administration keeps insisting that genocide has been going on in Darfur since 2003, despite the fact that a five-person UN mission led by Italian Judge Antonio Cassese reported in 2004 that genocide had not been committed in Darfur but grave human rights abuses were committed. They called for war crime trials.
Merchants of death
The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes. Eritrea hosts and supports the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the umbrella NDA opposition group, and the Eastern Front and Darfur rebels.
There are two rebel groups fighting in Sudan's Darfur region against the Khartoum central government of President Omar al-Bashir - the Justice for Equality Movement and the larger Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).
In February 2003, the SLA launched attacks on Sudan government positions in the Darfur region. SLA secretary-general Minni Arkou Minnawi called for armed struggle, accusing the government of ignoring Darfur. "The objective of the SLA is to
create a united democratic Sudan." In other words, regime change in Sudan.
The US Senate adopted a resolution in February 2006 that requested NATO troops in Darfur, as well as a stronger UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate. A month later, President George W Bush also called for additional NATO forces in Darfur. Genocide? Or oil?
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the US, much as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its International Military Education and Training program has provided training to military officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.
Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south have been brought in via murky, protected private "merchants of death" such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the US, Victor Bout, who has been cited repeatedly in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US government officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for money laundering.
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is rich in oil. Washington knew that long before the Sudanese government.
Chevron's 1974 oil project
US oil majors have known about Sudan's oil wealth since the early 1970s. In 1979, Jafaar Nimeiry, Sudan's head of state, broke with the Soviets and invited Chevron to develop the country's oil industry. That was perhaps a fatal mistake. UN Ambassador George H W Bush had personally told Nimeiry of satellite photos indicating oil in Sudan. Nimeiry took the bait. Wars over oil have been the consequence ever since.
Chevron found big oil reserves in southern Sudan. It spent $1.2 billion finding and testing them. That oil triggered what is called Sudan's second civil war in 1983. Chevron was the target of repeated attacks and killings and it suspended the project in 1984. In 1992, it sold its Sudanese oil concessions. Then China began to develop the abandoned Chevron fields in 1999 with notable results.
But Chevron is not far from Darfur today.
Chad oil and pipeline politics
Condoleezza Rice's Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They've just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad, near Darfur, via Cameroon to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.
To do it, they worked with Chad "President for life" Idriss Deby, a corrupt despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels. Deby joined Washington's Pan Sahel Initiative run by the Pentagon's US-European Command, to train his troops to fight "Islamic terrorism".
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. He used members of his elite Presidential Guard, who come from the province, providing them with all-terrain vehicles, arms and anti-aircraft guns to aid Darfur rebels fighting the Khartoum government in southwestern Sudan. The US military support to Deby in fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
Washington-backed NGOs and the US government claim unproven genocide as a pretext to ultimately bring UN/NATO troops into the oil fields of Darfur and southern Sudan. Oil, not human misery, is behind Washington's new interest in Darfur.
The "Darfur genocide" campaign began in 2003, the same time the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline began to flow. The US now had a base in Chad to go after Darfur oil and, potentially, co-opt China's new oil sources.
US military objectives in Darfur - and the Horn of Africa more widely - are being served at present by US and NATO backing for African Union (AU) troops in Darfur. There NATO provides ground and air support for AU troops who are categorized as "neutral" and "peacekeepers". Sudan is at war on three fronts, against Uganda, Chad, and Ethiopia, each with a significant US military presence and ongoing US military programs. The war in Sudan involves both US covert operations and US trained "rebel" factions coming in from south Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Chad's Deby looks to China too
The completion of the US and World Bank-financed oil pipeline from Chad to the Cameroon coast was designed as one part of a far grander Washington scheme to control the oil riches of Central Africa from Sudan to the entire Gulf of Guinea.
But Washington's erstwhile pal, Chad's Deby, began to get unhappy with his small share of the US-controlled oil profits. When he and the Chad parliament decided in early 2006 to take more of the oil revenues to finance military operations and beef up its army, the new World Bank president - and Iraq war architect - Paul Wolfowitz moved to suspend loans to the country. Then that August, after Deby had won re-election, he created Chad's own oil company, SHT, and threatened to expel Chevron and Malaysia's Petronas for not paying taxes owed, and demanded a 60% share of the Chad oil pipeline. In the end he came to terms with the oil companies, but winds of change were blowing.
Deby also faces growing internal opposition from a Chad rebel group, United Front for Change, known under its French name as FUC, which he claims is being covertly funded by Sudan. The FUC has based itself in Darfur.
Into this unstable situation, Beijing has shown up in Chad with a full coffer of aid money in hand. In late January, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a state visit to Sudan and Cameroon among other African states. In 2008, China's leaders visited no less than 48 African states. In August 2006, Beijing hosted Chad's foreign minister for talks and resumption of formal diplomatic ties cut in 1997. China has begun to import oil from Chad as well as Sudan. Not that much oil, but if Beijing has its way, that will soon change.
This April, Chad's foreign minister announced that talks with China over greater China participation in Chad's oil development were "progressing well". He referred to the terms the Chinese seek for oil development, calling them "much more equal partnerships than those we are used to having".
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not secure the oil.
Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure "oil at the source" across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today. George W Bush's interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe, 124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil fields from Angola in the south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
"West Africa's oil has become of national strategic interest to us," stated US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner back in 2002. Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy "with other means" - control of oil everywhere. China is challenging that control "everywhere", especially in Africa. It amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.
**F William Engdahl is author of the book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics, Pluto Press Ltd. His next book, Seeds of Destruction: The Dark Side of Genetic engineering (Global Research Publishing) will be released this June. He may be contacted via his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net .
Source: Asia Times
Sudan Balks at Threat of US Sanctions
Sudan says President Bush is unjustified in his decision to impose new sanctions on Khartoum because of the situation in Darfur. Before the sanctions were even announced at the White House on Monday, Sudanese officials protested the threat, saying every effort is being made to end the conflict in Darfur. Noel King reports for VOA from Sudan's capital, Khartoum.
The United States is hoping that sanctions will propel Sudan to take concrete action to end the four-year Darfur conflict by allowing a large United Nations presence in the region.
A Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sudan hopes to preserve good relations with the United States, but called the sanctions unjustified.
Ali al-Sadiq spoke to VOA by phone in Khartoum.
"We believe any sanctions targeting the government of Sudan have nothing to do with the situation in Darfur," said Sadiq. "It is not going to solve the problem of Darfur. The government of Sudan is working with the United Nations and the African Union to reach a solution."
The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, accusing the country of harboring terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden, who once lived in Khartoum.
Much of the international community has accused Sudan of obstructing the entry of U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.
At present, a poorly funded African Union mission of 7,000 troops is struggling amid often chaotic violence, while attacks by militias known as janjaweed continue to displace thousands.
Sudan in April accepted the first two phases of a U.N. support package, which will see about 3,000 peacekeepers deployed to the region.
But Sudan has resisted a so-called U.N./AU "hybrid" force of more than 23,000 peacekeepers. The hybrid force is believed to be the best bet to ending the conflict, due to its size.
The Darfur conflict has cost an estimated 200,000 lives. Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias to crush a rebellion by African tribesmen who complained that remote Darfur, a region the size of France, had been neglected by Sudan's powerful government in Khartoum.
China Rejects US Sanctions Against Sudan For Darfur Conflict
China has rejected U.S. plans for more sanctions against Sudan and has called for more patience to resolve the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region. China also defended its investments in Sudan as helping to bring about peace. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
China's chief diplomat on African affairs, Liu Guijin, says new pressure or sanctions against Khartoum for its actions in Darfur would only complicate the conflict and make it more difficult to resolve.
President Bush has announced sanctions against Sudanese companies and officials to try to stop the killing in Darfur, which the United States has called genocide against ethnic minority groups.
The United States, along with Britain, is also considering drafting a U.N. resolution that would increase the number of Sudanese officials subject to sanctions and extend an arms embargo to all of Sudan instead of just Darfur.
Liu, who returned to Beijing last week after a five-day trip to Sudan and Darfur, questioned the need for new sanctions. He said the Sudanese government has recently shown signs of flexibility and is willing to hold talks with rebel groups.
"In this situation, why can't the international community give the peaceful resolution of Sudan's Darfur issue a little more time? Why can't they give the resolution a few more opportunities? Why can't they use a little more patience?" Liu asks.
Sudan has agreed to a U.N. plan to bring thousands of peacekeepers into Darfur to aid overwhelmed African Union forces already there. But, Khartoum has stalled on letting the peacekeepers in.
China is a major buyer of Khartoum's oil and it supplies arms to the country. Beijing has been accused of ignoring the bloodshed and protecting Khartoum against U.N. sanctions to maintain access to Sudan's oil.
Liu defended Beijing's investments in Sudan's oil industry. He said poverty and lack of resources were the major causes of conflict in Sudan and the Chinese investments would lead to peace.
"China and Sudan oil cooperation is beneficial in helping Sudan's economic development and is fundamentally beneficial in resolving Sudan's wars and conflicts," Liu says.
The Sudanese government has been accused of backing militias responsible for mass killings and rapes among ethnic-minority communities in Darfur.
The United Nations estimates 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million run out of their homes in the four years of conflict.
Citizentube focus: Darfur
Stopping Genocide: Darfur, Sudan