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British Minister Urges China to Help on Darfur

Aug 28, 2007 02:43 PM EDT

China should help resolve a humanitarian crisis in Darfur as one of a few "critical players", a British minister said on Tuesday, urging the world's most populous country to be more active in global diplomacy.

Lord Malloch-Brown, on the first visit to China by a British minister since Gordon Brown took up the premiership in June, said Beijing needed to transform itself into a "strong, multilateral player".

"Trying to move on Darfur without the active involvement of China was kind of like pushing a very big rock up an extremely steep mountain, you just couldn't do it," Malloch-Brown, Britain's minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, told reporters.

While Chinese companies control some of Sudan's largest oil blocks, human rights groups accuse China of giving Khartoum financial and military aid that enables it to wage war in the Darfur region that has killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.

Malloch-Brown plans to travel to Sudan in 10 days.

"I think that I go to Sudan on a much more powerful position having talked first to the authorities in Beijing, they are critical players in all of this," he added.

Despite a 2006 peace deal, some 7,000 African Union troops are struggling to keep the peace. Although large-scale fighting has largely ended, rebels and militias have fractured creating lawlessness and banditry.

Malloch-Brown suggested China should assume a bigger role alongside traditional powers like the United States in multilateral bodies such as the United Nations on issues like African development, Myanmar's political gridlock and denuclearisation in North Korea.

"We want China to be a major player in the world, there is no alternative for the world but to have a responsible China sitting at the global table, helping to solve global issues."

China is beginning to flex its economic power globally -- setting up a new agency to invest its foreign reserves abroad. But the Chinese government was too timid on upholding human rights, Malloch-Brown said.

"The kind of world we want to see is one where human rights are respected universally, and an indispensable part to achieving that is that China is also willing to make that case at home and abroad."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently in Beijing, also urged China to press Sudan to help create peace in Darfur.