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Last Updated: Monday, 9 April 2007, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
China calls for change on Darfur
African Union soldier on patrol in Darfur
Sudan wants the African Union to control Darfur peacekeeping
Sudan's key ally China has urged it to show greater flexibility in discussions over its war-torn Darfur region.

Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told President Omar al-Bashir that he needed to do more to improve security, China's state media reports.

President Bashir has blocked attempts by the United Nations to bolster peacekeeping in Darfur, saying it infringes on Sudan's sovereignty.

China has invested billions of dollars in Sudan's oil industry.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2m displaced during the four-year conflict between rebel groups and pro-government militia.

Military hardware

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says China is seen as the key in terms of trying to get the Sudanese government to change its mind on sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur.

He says China is Sudan's most loyal friend and buys most of the crude oil it produces.

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China sells military hardware to Khartoum and Chinese workers are building dams, roads and bridges across Sudan.

Thanks to its close ties with Beijing, Khartoum no longer has to worry about what the Western world says about the conflict in Darfur, our correspondent says.

Until now, China has refused to get involved in the Darfur conflict, but our correspondent says that position has shown some small signs of changing in recent months.

"China appreciates Sudan's efforts in restoring peace in Darfur but is expecting more flexibility on the Annan plan," Mr Zhai said after meeting President Bashir in Khartoum.

This was the plan proposed by former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan for a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force.

Sudan accepted the force in principle before rejecting most of the details in follow-up discussions.


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