CHINA'S top official for ethnic minorities has called for more support from the central Government to promote their economic development. Ismail Amat, Minister of the State Nationalities Affairs Commission and State Councillor, said development was even more important now Beijing had announced reforms in the transition to a market economy. Ethnic minorities make up 91 million of China's population, and live mostly in the poor northwestern and southwestern regions. The major minorities include Zhuang, Uighurs, Mongolians, Koreans and Tibetans. The minorities have long been plagued by economic backwardness and clashes among different races, especially with the Han. Mr Amat listed 10 sectors where Beijing should promote the solidarity and progress of China's ethnic minorities, a dispatch of the China News Service (CNS) reported yesterday. While the country as a whole had plunged into market reform, Mr Amat urged Beijing to work out practical measures to help minorities' economic development. He also called for support from wealthier regions in the development of these areas. 'Differences between the eastern coastal areas and minorities' regions are a historical, geographical and social legacy which cannot be levelled a short period of time. Neither can it be solved by slowing down the development of the east,' Mr Amat said. The answer to the problem, he said, was to speed up the economic development of these poor areas, with support from the central Government, from the developed areas and also from the poor areas themselves. Mr Amat noted that ethnic cadres and professionals should be groomed to meet the demands of the market economy. Meanwhile, the conflicts among different ethnic minorities should be properly handled, he said.