He said the engineers would pave the way for a 26,000-strong AU-UN force due to begin peacekeeping operations in Darfur early next year.
 
A total of 315 Chinese engineers are scheduled to be deployed to the region by next month, joining two battalions from Nigeria and Rwanda as well as a police unit from Bangladesh already in the province as part of the new force.
 
The AU-UN force is tasked with ending nearly five years of bloodshed in Darfur that has taken a toll of more than 200,000 people from the combined effects of war, famine and disease while 2.2 million others have been left homeless.

 

China, which is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil, has been accused of shielding Khartoum from international sanctions.