China Thursday dismissed as “unconfirmed” a United Nations report that said that Chinese bullets were used in attacks on UN peacekeepers in Darfur, and rejected claims that it was violating an international arms embargo in the troubled region as “groundless.”
Chinese diplomats at UN headquarters in New York have reportedly been trying to block publication of a report by an UN panel of experts that says 11 different kinds of Chinese-made bullet casings have been found at the sites of attacks by government-allied militia against UN and African Union peacekeeping forces in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
“It is inappropriate for the panel to make groundless accusations against member states on the basis of unconfirmed information,” Mr. Ma said.
China is Sudan’s largest arms supplier. Under the terms of a 2005 UN Security Council resolution trying to halt the fighting in Darfur, Beijing is supposed to take measures to ensure that the Sudanese government does not use any of its Chinese military equipment in Darfur.
The UN experts’ report, due to be presented soon to the Security Council, does not say that China knowingly sold weapons and ammunition for use in Darfur, according to diplomats who have seen the report. Nor does the panel even go so far as to say that the bullets used in attacks on peacekeepers were sold by China to Sudan.
China’s attempt to suppress the report, however, “is suspicious” one UN diplomat told Reuters.
Earlier reports by the panel have also found evidence of Chinese military equipment being used in Darfur. The 2008, report, for example, said panel members had inspected a Chinese-made military truck that Darfurian rebels had seized from government troops.
Chinese-made ammunition is widely available on the international arms market. It is used by many different armed groups in Darfur, including government forces, their allies in janjaweed tribal militia, and by anti-government rebels, according to a report by the “Small Arms Survey” a group of experts at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
Most of it comes originally from the Sudanese armed forces, which then distribute it to allies or lose it in battle, the Small Arms Survey report says. But Darfuri insurgents seized 12 tons of Chinese-made small arms ammunition from a civilian convoy carrying UN peacekeeping forces’ supplies through Darfur in March 2008.
At one stage last week, Chinese diplomats in New York were reportedly threatening to veto the renewal of the expert panel’s mandate in the Security Council unless it changed the language in its report. China eventually abstained, however, and it is unclear whether Beijing will seek to use its council veto to block adoption of the panel report when it comes up for consideration.