China warned today that "unbridled pressure" would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, after critics including Hollywood director Steven Spielberg accused Beijing of not doing enough to bring an end to the suffering.
Spielberg quit a week ago as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies of this summer's Beijing Olympics, saying his conscience would not allow him to continue working with the event.
China is believed to have influence over Sudanese leaders because it buys two-thirds of the African country's oil exports. China also sells weapons to the Islamic government and defends it in the United Nations.
"We shall not use unbridled pressure so as to prevent further complication of the situation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular news briefing. "Relevant countries shall maintain patience and conduct equal dialogue to resolve the issue properly."
He did not mention Spielberg or the international criticism leveled against China.
Premier Wen Jiabao detailed China's efforts to establish peace in Darfur during a telephone call today with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a move that underscored the sensitivity of the issue.
"We are willing, together with Britain, to continue to make unremitting efforts for the proper resolution of the Darfur issue," Wen told Brown, according to an account of the conversation posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry Web site.
China was the first non-African country to dispatch peacekeepers to Darfur, and was quick to send development and humanitarian aid, Wen was reported as saying. Beijing has also played a key role in peace negotiations, he said.
China's special envoy to Darfur will be making his fourth visit to the region later this month, the Foreign Ministry announced.
Peace negotiations were "obviously lagging" behind the deployment of peacekeeping forces, Liu said, calling for a speedup in the political process and efforts to persuade rebel groups to join in peace talks to end more than four years of conflict.
More than 200,000 people have died after rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government.
Activists have attempted to shame China by saying that inaction makes it unworthy to be an Olympics host. China has consistently said the Olympics is a sporting event and should not be linked to politics.
Still, China has made significant changes to its policies in Sudan within the last year, appointing longtime diplomat Liu Guijin as a special envoy to the region and sending 140 engineers to help prepare for the arrival of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers. The efforts have earned kudos from the United States.
China: 'Pressure' would complicate Darfur crisis