China To Deploy Peacekeepers To Darfur In October, Military Says
China will deploy engineers and a medical unit to Sudan's troubled Darfur region next month as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, the military reported.

The peacekeeping unit of 315 people will include three engineer platoons, one well digging platoon, and one field hospital, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Saturday, quoting Dai Shao'an, vice director of the Defense Ministry's office of peacekeeping affairs.

It said they would be deployed to build roads and bridges and dig wells in advance of the larger 26,000-strong African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur that was approved by the U.N.'s Security Council on July 31 and will likely start deploying early next year.

The announcement comes amid efforts by Beijing to counter criticism that it is reluctant to support international intervention in Darfur, where a four-year-old conflict between rebels and government-backed militias has killed 200,000 people and left 2.5 million homeless.

Energy-hungry China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil output and sells weapons to the Khartoum regime. Critics say Beijing has not used its economic leverage to push Sudan's government more strongly for peace in Darfur, and have attempted to shame China into acting by linking the Darfur crisis to next year's Summer Olympics in the Chinese capital.

Xinhua said the unit headed to Darfur has been trained in international law, the United Nations constitution and the English language.

Last week, China's special envoy for Darfur, Liu Guijin, offered to act as a go-between in new peace negotiations to end the conflict. Liu said China has no contact with the rebels but will "definitely" keep using its influence with the government.