Japan to lobby Sudan on Darfur
TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will push for progress in the Darfur conflict in talks with a visiting official from Sudan, a foreign ministry official said Thursday. Nafie Ali Nafie, a top aide to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, will visit Tokyo next week for talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, the official said.
Komura "will call for the early resumption of peace negotiations in Darfur," the official said. "This is part of Japan's efforts to be a country engaged in cooperation for international peace."
International organisations estimate that 200,000 people have died in Darfur and more than a third of the six-million population displaced since 2003 as state-backed Arab militias battle ethnic minorities for scarce resources.
The Khartoum government says the death toll has been greatly exaggerated in the conflict, which the United States has denounced as genocide.
China is Sudan's main overseas supporter and arms supplier and has come under growing pressure to use its influence to end the bloodshed.
Japan has often uneasy relations with China and has increasingly tussled with Beijing for influence overseas.
The Mainichi Shimbun said Japan hoped to raise the Darfur issue when it hosts the summit of the Group of Eight major industrial countries in July.
Commenting on the report, the foreign ministry official told AFP: "Although Darfur has been discussed in G8 summits in recent years, nothing is fixed yet in terms of this year's case."
Japan also plans to host a conference on African development in May ahead of the summit of the Group of Eight, which groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Japan has said it hopes to focus on global health, including Africa's development, at the G8 summit.
Komura told the Financial Times last week that Japan was considering sending peacekeeping troops to Sudan to help secure peace following the 2005 accord that ended a two-decade, north-south civil war.
But Komura stressed Japan, which has been officially pacifist since World War II, was not considering sending troops to Darfur.
Von: http://afp.google.com, 27.02.2008