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China calls UN findings on arms in Darfur 'groundless'

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Diplomat says China could set "dangerous precedent"
  • U.N. source: A panel found evidence of Chinese arms in Darfur
  • China denies violating an arms embargo in Darfur
  • Violence has been rising in the conflict-torn region

Beijing, China (CNN) -- China blasted as "groundless" Thursday a draft report that says Chinese ammunition has been used in the bloody Darfur conflict this year. The nation has called for a review before the report goes to the Security Council for approval.

If China blocks the draft from becoming final, a "dangerous precedent" would be set, a Western Security Council diplomat told CNN.

No other delegation in the committee supports the Chinese position, said the diplomat, who did not want to be identified out of concern that it would cause further problems in releasing the report. He said the report met the expected standard and therefore should be sent to the Security Council.

China denies that it has violated a 2004 embargo by supplying arms to the volatile Darfur region, a charge that has been hurled against the Communist nation before.

"China has been implementing the Security Council resolutions on sanctions against Sudan in a comprehensive, earnest and precise manner," said Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. "It is inappropriate of the panel to make groundless accusations based on this unconfirmed report."

Another United Nations source -- who has seen the draft report but did not want to be identified because the report has not yet been formally submitted to the Security Council -- told CNN that the panel of experts found evidence that Sudanese forces used more than a dozen types of Chinese ammunition against rebels in Darfur over the past two years.

At a Sudan Sanctions Committee meeting Wednesday, the expert panel briefed member nations on recently manufactured shell casings from Chinese ammunition that were collected at a site where U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur have been attacked several times, the source said.

The date of manufacture of the shell casings is crucial. Previous panel reports also have pointed to Chinese ammunition in Darfur. Beijing, however, has in the past said Chinese armaments there predate the 2004 Darfur embargo.

Violence in Darfur has been on a grim uptick this year, and May was the deadliest month since a U.N. mission deployed there in 2007.

As many as 300,000 people are believed to have died, and at least 2.5 million have been displaced from their homes in Darfur since fighting broke out in 2003 among the government, the government-allied Janjaweed militia and other armed rebel groups, according to the United Nations.

The conflict has been marked by widespread atrocities, including the murders of civilians and the rapes of women and girls.

China accounts for 90 percent of small arms sales to Sudan, which human rights groups have described as the "weapon of choice" for the Janjaweed.

Last week, China abstained from a vote to extend the mandate of the Security Council panel of experts that has been issuing reports on Darfur since the embargo was imposed.

China's representative, Yang Tao, said the panel needs to improve its methods and conduct its work under "the principles of objectivity and accountability."

In a news briefing in Beijing earlier this week, Ma, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said China hopes to see enduring peace in Sudan. "We sincerely wish an early and proper settlement of the Darfur issue," he said.

The panel's report is expected to be formally sent to the Security Council next week, the U.N. source told CNN.

CNN's Joe Vaccarello in New York and Nima Elbagir in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.