China's Hu tells Sudan it must solve Darfur issue

By Opheera McDoom
Friday, February 2, 2007; 2:38 PM

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao told Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Friday Khartoum had to resolve the four-year-old conflict in Darfur, a source said after talks between the two leaders.

The source did not elaborate on the comments by Hu, who Western leaders hoped would use his first trip to Sudan, China's third-largest African trading partner, to press Bashir to accept U.N. peacekeepers in the western region.

The Chinese leader did not refer to the Darfur conflict in a statement afterwards in which he said he envisaged a new level of cooperation and stronger economic ties with Sudan, China's fourth-largest source of crude oil imports in November.

But Hu, on an eight-nation African tour to boost ties at a time of huge Chinese demand for raw materials to meet its rapid industrial expansion, did pledge 40 million yuan ($4.8 million) in humanitarian aid for Darfur.

Hu told Bashir "Darfur is a part of Sudan and you have to resolve this problem," said the source, declining to be named.

The Chinese president signed several economic deals as he started his visit, including an interest-free loan of 100 million yuan for Sudan to build a new presidential palace. He wrote off up to $70 million in Sudanese debts to China.

Hu, who also visited a Chinese-built oil refinery north of Khartoum and gave a brief speech, declined to take questions from the media. He is due to leave Sudan on Saturday.

"I am confident this visit will facilitate a strengthening of the traditional friendship between China and Sudan and bring cooperation between the countries to a new level," he said in the statement.

Sudan's Islamic government, under U.S. sanctions, has relied on its communist Asian ally to expand oil production to 330,000 barrels per day and build infrastructure like dams and roads.

But little is known about China's investment in Sudan, especially in the oil sector.


Hundreds of people waving banners reading "Welcome Hu Jintao, welcome to Sudan" lined the streets of Khartoum, which was festooned with Sudanese and Chinese flags.

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