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Interview: Chinese envoy calls for pressing Darfur rebel groups to restart talks
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08:20, February 25, 2008

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China's envoy for the Darfur issue on Sunday urged nations with influence over rebel groups in the Darfur region to pressure them to return to negotiations with the Sudanese government.

"The reluctance of Darfur's main rebel groups to return to the negotiating table has resulted in the disappointing tardiness of the political process in Darfur during the last few months," Liu Guijin told Xinhua upon his arrival in Khartoum for a visit to Sudan.

"Only if those main rebel groups return to the negotiating table, could Darfur achieve a certain extent of stability and the peacekeeping mission be carried out smoothly," he said.

The Darfur peace talks, which have been deadlocked since a peace deal was signed between the Sudanese government and a major anti-government group in May 2006, were resumed in Libya last October under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union (AU).

However, six rebel factions from war-torn Darfur refused to attend the talks, claiming the Sudanese government "does not have the necessary legitimacy to negotiate."

The Chinese envoy said a settlement of the Darfur issue calls for the implementation of the dual-track strategy, which is designed to push forward political negotiations and the peacekeeping mission in a balanced manner.

International parties should give equal attention to the political process rather than merely focus on the peacekeeping mission, said Liu, who is on his fourth visit to Sudan since his appointment last May.

Liu said progress has been made in the peacekeeping mission by the hybrid U.N.-AU force in Darfur.

For instance, the advance troops of a 315-strong engineering unit from China and a police unit from Bangladesh have been deployed in Darfur, and African nations such as Egypt and Ethiopiaare preparing to send their peacekeeping forces as well, he said.

Liu, who arrived in Sudan after a visit to Britain, said he was asked by Western reporters in London whether his current visit to Sudan was linked with Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's decision to quit as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympic Games and pressure on the games.

"I told them the answer is no. What China has been seeking is neither to defuse outside pressure, nor to seize the so-called height of morality," he said.

Instead, "I am hoping to use my visit to Britain and Sudan to give the international community an opportunity to gain an understanding of the situation in Darfur more actually and concretely," he said.

Liu, a veteran diplomat and a former ambassador to Zimbabwe andSouth Africa, has been engaged in African affairs for more than 25years. Since resuming his current post, Liu has visited Sudan several times and shuttled between the United States, Britain and other countries over the issue.

"What China is pursuing is aimed at realizing peace in Darfur as soon as possible and helping Sudan achieve stability and development as soon as possible," Liu said.

"China's commitment to resolving the Darfur issue is for the sake of peace, rather than for expediency," he added.

Liu said China is playing its role in resolving the Darfur issue in an open manner and will support any proposal or measure which is conducive to the settlement of the issue.

The Chinese envoy appealed for further international support for the U.N. and the AU -- the other two important players of a tripartite mechanism that also includes Sudan in resolving the Darfur issue.

"Once again, I would like to urge the international community to further support efforts by AU envoy for Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim and U.N. envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson to solve the Darfur issue," Liu said.

The U.N. Security Council in July 2007 authorized the deployment a U.N.-AU hybrid force in Darfur, which would comprise 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police and civilian staff.

Until now, there are only some 9,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 7,000 troops and 1,200 police who had been serving with the AU force.

Liu said he is confident of a final settlement of the Darfur issue as long as all parties concerned make joint efforts toward this end.

Source: Xinhua

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