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Cooperation Needed for Peace in Darfur
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The international community should work together to support the "fast and smooth" implementation of the newly announced agreement to send a joint peacekeeping force to Sudan's Darfur region, China's special representative Liu Guijin said over the weekend.


The political process with all parties involved should continue in order to help restore lasting peace in the troubled areas, he said after discussions with South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and other foreign ministry officials in the South African capital on Friday.


Liu was in South Africa as part of a continental tour of consultations after the Sudanese government on Tuesday accepted the deployment of a joint African Union-United Nations force of between 17,000 and 19,000 troops in Darfur.


Liu said both the Chinese and South African governments welcomed the decision, which was announced after a closed-door meeting of the UN, AU and the Sudanese government in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, last week.


"China and South Africa hold similar views with regard to the Darfur issue ... We need to give encouragement to the flexible attitude demonstrated in the recent meeting in Addis Ababa," Liu told a media briefing.


The newly appointed Chinese envoy, who made a fact-finding trip to Darfur last month, said this was achieved thanks to efforts of the international community.


"Now the Sudanese government has responded positively," he said.


The deployment of the joint peacekeeping troop is the final part of a three-phase support plan, also known as the Annan plan as it was put forward by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, which aims to end the armed conflict in Darfur.


The AU, UN and Sudanese government agreed on the plan in November. With the first phase of the plan already under way, Sudan announced on April 16 that it approved the inauguration of the second phase, which involves the deployment of 3,000 UN troops and six attack helicopters in Darfur to support the 7,800-strong African force, as well as being a preparation for the next phase.


The Sudanese government has been accused by the US of delaying the deployment of the joint force. But Khartoum strongly requested the joint force must be predominantly African.


Liu said the international community should now concentrate on how to support the deployment of the peacekeeping troop.


He said China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has been closely cooperating with the UN, AU and the Sudanese government on the Darfur issue, including sending 275 engineering troops to the region to support the second phase of the Annan plan, as well as $10 million and other humanitarian support.


"We have been playing the role of a bridge ... We have been trying to give advise and to persuade Sudan to be more flexible to accept the UN plan," Liu said.


He said he would also hold talks with the AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare in Addis Ababa, with officials of the Arab League during his visit to Egypt, and make another visit to Sudan.


Liu said China opposed a move to impose sanctions on Sudan, which the United States threatened to use.


"We do not need to rush to impose more sanctions," he said. "Now is not the proper time. Peace has a future. We need to work together and help the newly deployed AU-UN joint operation."


The diplomat also shrugged off the accusation that China had resisted exerting pressure on Khartoum due to oil interests in Sudan.


"Pressure cannot solve anything," he said. "No matter how many troops you send, without a political presence and cooperation of the government, you cannot find a long-lasting solution.


"I think up to now we have been quite successful," he said.


He said China's normal ties with Sudan have been "unnecessarily politicized," which was "unfair and irrational."


He said China will continue to help with water-supply projects and establishing agriculture technology centers in Sudan to help the country realize its social and economic development, which "we regard as the root cause of the armed conflict and humanitarian crisis."


(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2007)

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