KHARTOUM (AFP) — Darfur rebels on Sunday said freshly deployed Chinese peacekeepers were not welcome and as Khartoum's "allies" in Sudan's war-ravaged western region threatened they were not immune from attack.
China, the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil and which sells the country weapons, has been accused of shielding Khartoum -- blamed for fanning the violence in Darfur -- from international sanctions.
"Our position is clear, the Chinese are not here for peace and they must leave immediately," Justice and Equality Movement commander Abdel Aziz el-Nur Asher told AFP by telephone one day after Chinese engineers arrived in Darfur.
"Otherwise, we will consider the Chinese soldiers as part of the government forces and we will act accordingly," said Asher, who is also a brother of JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim.
The 135 Chinese arrived as part of the vanguard of a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission set to take over from poorly equipped African troops next year. A total of 315 Chinese engineers are expected in Darfur by next month.
"China is complicit in the genocide being carried out in Darfur and the Chinese are here to protect their oil interests in Kordofan," a region to the east of Darfur where JEM recently carried out an attack on an oil installation.
In the attack, JEM rebels kidnapped five oil workers from the facility run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, a consortium involving China's CNPC, India's ONGC, Malaysia's Petronas and state-owned Sudapet.
"China is the biggest weapons supplier to the Sudanese regime and the weapons that we have captured in large quantities prove this. China supports Khartoum at the United Nations and its presence in Darfur can be considered an attempt to colonise our region," Asher said.
The UN said that the Chinese engineers will build roads and bridges, dig wells, and deploy a medical team.
The 26,000-strong hybrid force is due to begin peacekeeping operations in Darfur next year, tasked with ending nearly five years of bloodshed.
The force of mainly Africans will replace an under-funded and ill-equipped 7,000-strong African Union force that has served since 2004.
Speaking to AFP by telephone from Juba, the capital of semi-autonomous south Sudan, a spokesman for 10 Darfur rebel factions from the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) also threatened the Chinese.
"Sending any international troops to Darfur without our agreement will complicate the security situation in the region," said Issam al-Haj.
"The Chinese arrival in Darfur is part of the agenda of the (main ruling) National Congress party and not to protect civilians. We consider them forces supporting the government troops and for us they will not be immune," he said.
The JEM warned it would attack foreign oil companies and target Chinese firms in particular because they supply weapons to Khartoum, before the abduction on October 23 in Kordofan.
Since February 2003, more than 200,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease in Darfur region, while 2.2 million others have been left homeless.
The Sudanese government, while objecting to troops from Nepal, Scandinavia and Thailand, has welcomed the Chinese mission to Darfur.
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