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Darfur activists urge China to stop arming Sudan
WASHINGTON Oct 18 (Reuters) - International activists working to end the conflict in Darfur called on Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday to stop selling weapons to Sudan and press Khartoum to admit U.N. peacekeepers.
The letter to Hu by the Save Darfur Coalition was accompanied by a new study that accused China of "trying to have it both ways" by appearing to help ease the Darfur crisis to avoid trouble before the 2008 Beijing Olympics while continuing to arm and enrich the Khartoum government.
"The balance of Chinese engagement in Sudan, Mr President, does not clearly prioritize ending the horrific and destabilizing conflict in Darfur, and indeed can still more easily be assessed to the contrary," said the letter.
The coalition, an umbrella group of 180 religious and human rights groups, applauded China's recent decision to help international efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis. But it said Beijing's stance is "ambiguous and sends mixed messages".
"It is entirely plausible to view China's positive steps toward resolving the Darfur crisis primarily as an effort to deflect criticism directed against your country as you prepare to host the Olympic Games next summer, and not as sincere," said the letter to Hu. "We wish to believe differently."
International experts say some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have fled their homes in Darfur since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, which in turn mobilized predominantly Arab militias to crush the revolt.
Khartoum, which long resisted demands for a U.N. force, says only 9,000 are dead and the crisis has been exaggerated.
China has supported the Sudan government's version of events, but has advised Khartoum to cooperate with U.N. efforts to send peacekeepers and name a special envoy for Darfur.
At the same, however, China increased trade with Sudan 124 percent in the first six months of this year compared to 2006, according to Chinese statistics.
China is Sudan's biggest arms supplier following a 25-fold leap in arms sales between 2002 and 2005 and the bilateral military relationship "continues unabated and may even be expanding," the study said.
"On balance, China's engagement in efforts to end the Darfur conflict appears modest and is outweighed by its much deeper, unconditioned economic, military and diplomatic support for Sudan's government," said the report.
The letter urged China to push for the swift deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, contribute helicopters and heavy transport vehicles to the U.N. mission, and suspend all arms sales and military aid to Sudan until atrocities have ended.
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