More than 200,000 people have died in the Darfur
conflict  [GALLO/GETTY]
Beijing Olympics officials have defended China's stance on Darfur and appealled to activists not to pressure sponsors to pull out of the Games.

"If you respect the truth, you will see that China has been doing a lot toward the resolution of the Darfur issue,'' Olympics marketing director Yuan Bin claimed at an event aimed at downplaying the growing calls for boycotts during the Olympics.

"As for groups pressuring sponsors about the Beijing Olympic Games, I want to say the Olympics should be kept non-political.''

Yuan defended the Games as "a celebration that contributes to world peace'' and said sponsors "made the right decision'' by continuing to support them.

Activists want Beijing to press Sudan to end fighting in its western province of Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed there in violence between rebels and government-back militias.

China is a major buyer of Sudan's oil and is regarded as one of its isolated government's closest international partners.

Activists are pressing sponsors of the Beijing Games, which open August 8, to push China to act more forcefully with Sudan.

Demonstrators gather outside of the Chinese
Embassy in London [AFP]
People before profits?

A manager for Adidas, a key Olympic sponsor, appeared at the news conference with Yuan and affirmed the German sportswear maker's support for the Games.

"We are a sports brand, and it is traditional for us to be part of the Games regardless of who is the host,'' said Li Zhinu.

"From our point of view, we will not interfere in the internal affairs of a country.''

Other major sponsors include Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, General Electric, McDonald's and Coca-Cola, as well as computer maker Lenovo and other Chinese companies.

China's government has said repeatedly the Olympics should be kept separate from politics.

The communist leadership has also pointed to changes to its Sudan policies.

Veteran diplomat Liu Guijin was named special envoy to the region and China sent 140 engineers to help prepare for the arrival of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers.

Those efforts earned praise from the United States.

However last week, film director Steven Spielberg backed out of his role as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, saying his conscience would not allow him to continue.

He accused Beijing of failing to do enough to end to suffering in Darfur.

Despite Spielberg's departure, Yuan said, "we are sure we can produce a spectacular opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics.''

Source: Agencies