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China condemns murder of 5 hostages in Sudan

Khartoum urges UN council action on Darfur rebels

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China on Tuesday condemned the killing of five kidnapped Chinese oil workers in Sudan and described it as as an "inhumane terrorist" act.

"We express strong indignation and condemnation for the inhumane
terrorist deed of the kidnappers in killing these unarmed workers,"
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

Sudan's government said Darfur rebels on Monday shot and killed
five kidnapped Chinese oil workers and that two others escaped with
gunshot wounds.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu expressed "pained grief and condolences" for their families and said President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had told the ministry to do all it could to ensure the safe return of the missing men.

"China treasures its friendship with Sudan ... We also ask that Sudan, while ensuring the safety of our missing personnel, make all-out rescue efforts," Jiang told a news conference in Beijing.

She also urged Sudan to "adopt all beneficial steps to ensure the safety of lives and property of Chinese personnel in Sudan". This was the third such kidnapping in the energy-producing state of South Kordofan in the past year, marking an escalation of risk in the region where China has a
big stake.

Sudan should adopt all beneficial steps to ensure the safety of lives and property of Chinese personnel in Sudan,

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu

U.N. action

Sudan will demand that the U.N. Security Council take action against rebels in its war-torn Darfur region, Sudan's U.N. envoy said on Monday.

Sudanese Ambassador Abdul Mahmoud Abdul Haleem told reporters he would raise the issue on Tuesday when the 15-nation council meets to discuss deployment of a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID.

He said Sudan wants the council to issue "a strong condemnation" but added that this would not be sufficient.

"The leniency of the council has encouraged them," Abdul Haleem said of the Darfur rebels. "It is time for taking measures against those who destroy the peace process and take the lives of ordinary citizens."

Sudan's Foreign Ministry blamed the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur rebel group, for seizing and killing the five Chinese. Two others escaped and two more were still in the hands of the kidnappers, the ministry said on Monday. A London-based JEM official denied the group was involved.

Asked if the killers were trying to sabotage Khartoum's relationship with China, Abdul Haleem said yes.

"The choice is very clear," Abdul Haleem said. "It is consistent with their positions declared before against China."

It is time for taking measures against those who destroy the peace process and take the lives of ordinary citizens,

Sudanese U.N. envoy Abdul Mahmoud Abdul Haleem

Sanctions on rebels

He said Beijing had condemned the violence and assured Khartoum that it would not let such violence undermine its relationship with Sudan. China is the biggest foreign investor in Sudan and one of Khartoum's strongest allies.

Abdul Haleem said that the Security Council had spent too much time focusing on the Sudanese government while keeping silent about what rebel groups like JEM have been doing.

Council diplomats say that they are not opposed to slapping sanctions on rebel groups like the JEM, if they are truly undermining the peace process in Darfur. The government and rebels routinely trade accusations of human rights violations in Darfur, where a bloody conflict has raged since 2003.

Western council members insist that any sanctions against the rebels would have to be balanced with penalties against Khartoum for what they say is its role in undermining the peace process, such as creating obstacles that have slowed down the full deployment of UNAMID.

But the Chinese, who are permanent veto-wielding members of the council, are reluctant to support sanctions against the Sudanese government, council diplomats say.

The kidnapping was the third such incident in the energy-producing state of South Kordofan in the past year.

Analysts say the underdeveloped region could become another violent flashpoint. If the JEM did indeed carry out the kidnapping, it might indicate that insecurity could be spreading from neighboring Darfur.