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Ban: China's Role in Darfur Constructive
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The Chinese government has played a "constructive role" in the Darfur issue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday, stressing that "slow but credible and considerable progress" has been made in recent times.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting on Darfur in Paris, Ban said he was "satisfied" with China's contribution to the diplomatic process.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the delegations of 18 countries and international organizations reiterated their support for the joint efforts of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) - sending a composite peacekeeping force and striking a wider political deal between Khartoum and the rebel factions in western Sudan.

Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, who attended the meeting, backed the "road map" for the political process in Darfur, which was presented recently by the UN secretary-general's special representative Jan Eliasson and the AU special coordinator for Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim.

Zhang appealed to all sides to urge the Darfur rebels into rejoining the peace process as soon as possible.

The implementation of the "road map" is at a "crucial" stage, and pressure and sanctions on Khartoum would send the "wrong signals" that could be "unfavorable" to confidence building between the Sudanese government and the rebels. This can complicate matters instead of resolving the Darfur issue, he said.

Earlier this month, Sudan agreed to the joint UN-AU force of more than 20,000 troops and policemen as part of the second phase of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's peace plan.

Zhang said the agreement reached among the AU, UN and Sudan is an "important sign of progress" toward restoring peace in the Darfur regions. It demonstrates the efficiency of the coordination mechanism between the three parties.

But Zhang regretted that the political process on Darfur is behind schedule compared to the peacekeeping operations.

China has donated more than US$10 million in humanitarian aid for Darfur. Also, it will send a team of engineers to the regions.

China is always ready to play a "positive and constructive" role on Darfur and join hands with the international community to restore peace and stability in the Darfur regions and help with their development, he said.

"This is not the time to talk about further sanctions," said Liu Guijin, China's recently appointed special envoy for Darfur.

He decried the attempts to link the Darfur issue with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, saying they were "really unfounded (because) the basic character of the Olympics is non-political".

"I met with Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir in Khartoum, and he told me that the Sudanese government was actually ready to join the negotiating table any time, anywhere," Liu told reporters on Monday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Sudan for agreeing to the joint UN-AU force but said: "We must be firm toward belligerents who refuse to join the negotiating table."

"There are 19 rebel groups in Sudan now, and we must exert enough pressure on them to return to the negotiating table," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

(China Daily June 27, 2007)

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