BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and his U.S. counterpart discussed promoting the continued use of political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Darfur problem, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Dai and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte discussed the crisis in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region in a late night phone call, the ministry said in a statement seen on its Web site (www.fmprc.gov.cn) on Tuesday. It gave no further details.
More than 200,000 people are believed to have died in Darfur and some 2.5 million have been driven from their homes into squalid camps since ethnic tensions erupted into revolt in 2003.
The United States and other Western powers have sought to authorise U.N. peacekeepers to quell violence in Darfur, where government-backed militia have been fighting rebel forces. African Union troops have failed to stop massacres.
Negroponte is expected to visit Sudan and give a tough message from Washington, which has threatened new measures in an effort to break resistance to sending international troops to back the ill-equipped African Union forces.
China, which buys much of Sudan’s oil and wields veto power over U.N. resolutions, is facing rising criticism from Western governments and rights campaigners for having rejected U.N. forces.
Sudan has rebuffed international demands to allow deployment of a large U.N. force. Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan has suggested a hybrid African Union-U.N. force, which Khartoum also rejected.
Beijing had earlier told Khartoum it should show more flexibility on a Darfur peace plan put forward by Annan and improve humanitarian conditions there.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum on Sunday that China was willing to continue to play a “constructive role” in the Darfur peace process.
But Sudanese state television also showed Zhai’s visit to Darfur camps for the displaced where he said international pressure would only hurt efforts to ease the suffering there.
“Any action should be conducive to resolving the issue rather than intensifying or creating problems ... China does not approve of pressures and sanctions,” China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhai as saying on Monday.