By Alaa Shahine
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Rights group Amnesty International accused China and Russia on Tuesday of breaching a U.N. arms embargo by letting weapons into Sudan, where it said they were used in violation of international law.
China, the biggest foreign investor in Sudan, dismissed the accusations and said it would send military engineers as part of a U.N. package to support the African Union force in Darfur.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official also denied the charges.
Amnesty said it was “deeply dismayed” by the flow of arms allowed by China and Russia, both permanent members of the, and said the weapons were often diverted to be used in conflict in Darfur and neighboring Chad.”The authority of the Security Council itself is being greatly undermined as the Sudanese authorities and armed groups in Darfur are allowed to act with such obvious impunity before the eyes of the world, importing and diverting arms to commit flagrant violations of international law,” Amnesty said.
Thesays some 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have fled their homes since the conflict flared in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect. Sudan says only 9,000 have perished.
The United Nations accused Sudan in a report last month of violating the world body’s resolutions by flying weapons and other military equipment into the vast, western region.
Both the United Nations and the Amnesty reports also said Khartoum was using planes painted white to make them look like U.N. aircraft to bomb and carry out surveillance in Darfur.
Sudan has rejected the U.N. charges. Officials were not immediately available to comment on the Amnesty report.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the Amnesty accusations were “totally unreasonable.” She said China had a “prudent, responsible, and strictly administered policy” on military exports and abided by the relevant U.N. resolutions.
She did not give any specifics about numbers or the date of deployment of the military engineers to Darfur. But Washington said on Monday Beijing would send about 300 engineers for the “hybrid” force to support the 7,000-strong AU force.
The move marked a step in China’s efforts to balance pressures from Sudan and Western powers, mainly the United States, over its policy toward Darfur.
China buys much of Sudan’s oil. It has resisted proposals to send U.N. peacekeepers without the consent of Khartoum, but has also nudged Sudan to accept them and in April sent an envoy to inspect refugee camps in Darfur.
Sudan, which has recently agreed to allow a “heavy” U.N. support package of about 3,500 military personnel to be deployed in Darfur, has rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution to send the force of more than 20,000 peacekeepers to the region.
The diminishing possibility of deploying such a force has pushed efforts to find a political solution to the forefront, with several initiatives to unite the many rebel groups for possible peace talks with the government.
Only one main group signed a 2006 peace agreement with the government although small factions later committed to the deal.
The latest initiative was brought by semi-autonomous government of southern Sudan, which has said rebel unity talks could be held in Juba, the capital of the south, by July.
Another group, the Committee for Uniting the National Front, made up of former senior politicians in Khartoum, said several rebel factions have agreed to attend the talks in Juba.
Previous attempts to unite the rebels have failed because of fragmentations and divisions among those groups, along with government forces’ attacks against their positions.
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Beijing and Kate Kelland in London)