Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg has said he is withdrawing as an artistic advisor to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing because of the Chinese government's policy towards its ally Sudan and the conflict in Darfur.

In a statement, Spielberg said the Sudanese government shouldered the bulk of responsibility for the crimes in Darfur, but said China should be doing more to end the human suffering there.

Actress Mia Farrow, who had been pressing the director to end his involvement with this year's games, said his decision sent the right sort of message to Beijing.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington is quoted in the New York Times as saying that the Darfur issue was neither an internal issue for China nor was it caused by China.

The spokesman is also quoted as saying that it was completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair to link the two as one.