China urges solution to Libya crisis, hosts rebel leader

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 3:28 PM
China urges solution to Libya crisis, hosts rebel leader

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday that a meeting with the Libyan rebels' diplomatic chief, who is in Beijing for a two-day visit, was an effort to seek a quick solution to the crisis in the North African nation, a situation it said could not go on.

The chairman of the executive board of the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council, Mahmoud Jibril, is set to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to "exchange views on the situation in Libya," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing.

Jibril arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua said.

"We believe that the Libyan National Transitional Council is an important domestic political force and China is willing to continue maintaining contact with the National Transitional Council and its relevant parties, to seek a political solution to the problems in Libya," Hong said. He had been asked whether Jibril's visit marked a policy adjustment for China, which generally avoids wading into other nations' domestic conflicts.

"The Libyan crisis has already gone on for four months and the Libyan people have had enough of the chaos of war. Infrastructure has been seriously damaged. China expresses its concern at this," he added.

"China believes that this kind of situation cannot continue and a political resolution ought to be found as soon as possible," Hong added, repeating China's call for an immediate ceasefire.

He did not elaborate further on the visit.

China has taken no firm side in the war between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces and the opposition groups now encroaching on Tripoli, and has said its recent meetings with Libyan government and rebel representatives are part of an effort to encourage a ceasefire and negotiated end to the war.

Beijing, never very close to Gaddafi, this month hosted Libya's Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, and China said its door was also open to the rebel National Transitional Council.

China was among the emerging powers that abstained in March when the U.N. Security Council authorized the NATO-led air strikes against Gaddafi's forces. China could have used its veto power as a permanent member.

But Beijing quickly condemned the expansion of the strikes, and has since urged a ceasefire it says could open the way for compromise between the government and rebels.

Around half of China's crude oil imports last year came from the Middle East and North Africa, where Chinese companies have a big presence. Beijing mobilized navy ships and civil aircraft to help tens of thousands of Chinese workers flee Libya this year.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Sabrina Mao; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Ron Popeski)