BEIJING (Reuters) - Middle East countries should be left to themselves to resolve the problems they currently face without outside interference, a Chinese vice foreign minister said during a visit to the region.
While China supported a United Nations resolution for an arms embargo and other sanctions targeting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle, it has so far been cool to the idea of a no-fly zone over that country.
Arab countries appealed to the United Nations on Saturday to impose a no-fly zone on Libya as government troops backed by warplanes fought to drive rebels from remaining strongholds in western Libya.
Beijing has called for the situation in Libya to be resolved peacefully through dialogue, and demanded Libya's sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected, though added it would listen to the views of other Middle Eastern countries on the issue.
"The Middle East's stability is beneficial to the world's peace and development, and China respects the development path chosen by the Middle East's people," the Foreign Ministry cited Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun as saying during a visit to the region.
"Middle Eastern countries should handle their affairs themselves and should not be subject to outside interference," Zhai was paraphrased as saying.
"China is willing to work with the international community to maintain the peace and development of the Middle East region and to continue playing a constructive role to this end," he added.
Zhai visited Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on his trip from March 6-12, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on its website (www.mfa.gov.cn) late on Saturday.
The four countries "approved of China's position," the statement said, without providing further details.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Jonathan Thatcher)