China hails agreement between Sudan and Darfur rebel group
The Chinese press calls it the beginning of a true reconciliation. Comments from other countries are much more cautious. Dispute continues at United Nations between those who want to try the Sudanese president for genocide and those who, like Beijing, do not want direct interventions.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China is hailing the agreement signed yesterday in Doha (Qatar) by the Sudanese government and the rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the strongest groups among the populations of Darfur.

Among other things, the agreement stipulates the end of attacks against the 2 million refugees living in the camps, and an exchange of prisoners. The People's Daily, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, calls it true "reconciliation" between the parties at war, although it acknowledges that there is still a long way to go to peace.

The agreement is being greeted with great caution by the United States and the UN, which see it as a first timid step toward peace. U.S. ambassador Susan Rice says that this does not change the position of her country, which is in favor of having Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir tried for the genocide taking place in Darfur.

Yukio Takasu, a Japanese ambassador to the UN, insisted that the fighting needs to be suspended as soon as possible, because "we don't want to see talking while fighting," observing that many other rebel groups must also be involved.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, while applauding the agreement, stressed that "until the parties renounce hostilities, the situation in Darfur cannot improve."

Last February 11, UN sources revealed that the International Criminal Court intended to issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir (in the photo, with Chinese president Hu Jintao), accused of directing the genocide underway in Darfur, where since 2003, according to UN figures, at least 300,000 have been killed and 2.2 million have been made refugees. But the warrant was not issued, in part because of a request for postponement advanced by African and Arab countries, with the support of China and Russia.

According to Beijing, such an initiative would serve only to "destabilize" the region, worsening the conflict in Darfur and blocking any peace agreement between the government and the rebels. There is great disagreement at the UN, and the question could go as far as the Security Council, which could order the arrest warrant to be postponed for a full year.

China, which buys two thirds of Sudan's oil exports, has been highly criticized for failing to use its economic influence to exert pressure on Khartoum to end the civil war. Together with Russia, it is also accused of selling the country weapons that have been used in Darfur.

Beijing responds that tensions among ethnic groups are a domestic issue for Sudan, and that China contributes to peacekeeping forces sent by the UN. In reality, China is sending hundreds of technical experts there (in February, another 435 Chinese will depart, including engineers, doctors, road construction experts). These people can contribute to the country's growth, but have no influence over the war, in the absence of specific pressure from Beijing.