China urges Sudan to be "flexible" on peace plan

BEIJING (Reuters) - China told Sudan it should show more flexibility on a Darfur peace plan put forward by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan and improve humanitarian conditions in the region, Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

China, which buys much of Sudan’s oil and wields veto power over U.N. resolutions, is facing rising criticism from Western governments and rights campaigners for having rejected U.N. forces without Khartoum’s agreement.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum on Sunday that China was willing to continue to play a “constructive role” in the Darfur peace process.

Zhai said he “hoped the Sudanese side could show more flexibility on Annan’s plan, continue improving the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur and speed up the political process in Darfur”, Xinhua said.

More than 200,000 people are believed to have died in Darfur and some 2.5 million have been driven from their homes into squalid camps since ethnic tensions erupted into revolt in 2003.

Sudan has rebuffed international demands to allow the deployment of a large U.N. force. Annan has suggested a hybrid African Union-U.N. force, which Khartoum also rejected.