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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated Tuesday that Japan is not considering boycotting the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games despite growing international criticism of China over its close ties with Sudan.

“Sports and politics should be considered separately,” Abe said.

Meanwhile, he also implicitly urged Beijing to carefully balance its assistance to African countries like Sudan by giving ample consideration to human rights conditions and other problems.

“With regard to Sudan, especially in Darfur, it is true that human rights are being violated. Japan, along with the rest of the world, is concerned,” Abe said in response to reporters’ questions. “It is important for not only China but the whole world to make efforts to improve such human rights conditions. At the same time, I believe sports and politics should be considered separately.

“It is the common understanding among Japan, the United States and the European nations that we must take into account what kinds of problems and issues of concern there are when considering how to provide aid and assistance,” Abe said.

Beijing has close ties with Khartoum, primarily based on China’s purchase of two-thirds of Sudan’s oil output. China has been accused of blocking international efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur because of that relationship.

The criticism has grown in recent months, culminating in a letter sent by more than 100 U.S. lawmakers requesting Chinese President Hu Jintao to use his influence to persuade Sudan to put an end to the atrocities in Darfur.

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