China stopped short Tuesday of backing an international arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that accuses him of crimes against humanity for killing civilians who rose up against his rule.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference that China is closely following the decision by the International Criminal Court.
"We hope the ICC will adopt a prudent, objective and just attitude in fulfilling its responsibilities so as to make sure its work will be generally conducive to peace and stability in the region," Hong said.
The ICC is based in The Hague, Netherlands, but lacks police powers and needs international support to back the warrant issued Monday.
Hong's comments come as China appears to be hedging its bets on Libya, meeting members of Gadhafi's government as well as representatives of the rebels trying to overthrow him.
Earlier this month, China's foreign minister sought to bolster ties with the rebels, telling the opposition leader that his Transitional National Council represents a growing segment of the Libyan public.
Yang Jiechi's remarks to Mahmoud Jibril were China's strongest endorsement of the council yet and dealt a further diplomatic setback to Gadhafi.
But Beijing has criticized the NATO bombing campaign in support of the rebels. And Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi visited Beijing this month in an apparent attempt to reassert the Libyan government's influence.
After fighting began in February, China evacuated 35,000 of its citizens working in Libya, while China-backed deals such as a half-finished public housing project being built by state-owned contractor China State Construction Engineering Corp. were abruptly put on hold. Other Chinese engineering, telecommunications and energy companies also face massive losses.
Estimates of China's investments in Libya before fighting began run as high as $18 billion.
Hong repeated Chinese statements that it supports efforts by South Africa and the African Union to resolve the Libyan crisis through political means.