China asks UN to lead post-war efforts in Libya

AFP , Wednesday 24 Aug 2011

China urges the UN to lead post-war reconstruction in Libya, calling for a smooth political transition after rebels overran Muammer Gaddafi's Tripoli compound

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (Photo:AP)

Beijing said it was willing to help with efforts to return stability to Libya as the rebels battled the last remnants of Gaddafi's forces. China, which long supported the Gaddafi regime, has invested billions of dollars in rail, oil and telecoms in Libya, and has commercial and strategic reasons for not wanting Western countries to exert too much influence there.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to take a lead in the reconstruction of Libya, where NATO has waged an aerial bombing campaign to defend civilians against attacks by Gaddafi's loyalists. "The UN should play a leading role in post-war arrangements in Libya," Yang told Ban in a telephone conversation on Tuesday, according to a foreign ministry statement.

"China... is willing to work with the UN to promote stability in Libya," added Yang, who also called on the United Nations to work with other regional organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League.

Yang further told Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota in phone talks that China was willing to work with emerging developing nations to help stabilise Libya, his ministry said in a separate statement.

Britain, France and the United States have thrown diplomatic and financial support behind the Libyan opposition, and Yang's comments appeared to indicate a reluctance to allow them to take control of the reconstruction efforts.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, abstained from voting on the resolution which authorised a NATO bombing campaign to protect civilians in Libya, as did Russia. Beijing has since been critical of NATO's actions in Libya, urging a compromise between the country's government and the rebels.

Beijing initially maintained a policy of non-interference and public neutrality on the conflict, but has since shown a willingness to engage, holding talks with both government officials and rebel leaders.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministry called for a smooth transition of political power -- the closest it has come to a formal recognition of the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC).

"China hopes for a smooth transition of political power in Libya," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

"We hope the future, new regime will adopt effective measures to unite different factions, rapidly restore a normal social order and strive to start political and economic reconstruction."

Ma said China had always attached importance to the NTC's role in "resolving Libya's problems".

In June the foreign minister, Yang, hosted senior rebel leader Mahmud Jibril in Beijing and said Libya's opposition was an "important dialogue partner", but stopped short of formally recognising it.

Underlining the scale of its economic involvement in the country, China had to evacuate nearly 36,000 of its nationals from Libya in a huge land, sea and air operation in February, when fighting first broke out.

Beijing acknowledged Tuesday that its investments had been hit by the revolt that erupted during the "Arab Spring".

On Wednesday, commerce ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said China was willing to help rebuild Libya after the conflict.

"We also hope to continue to develop cooperation of all kinds with Libya," he said.

According to a previous commerce ministry statement, China currently has 50 large-scale projects worth at least $18.8 billion in Libya.

The state Xinhua news agency on Tuesday urged "the new Libyan government" to protect "lawful" foreign assets, including business contracts and projects with the Gaddafi government, and equipment on work sites.

China, a major oil importer, also needs to secure stable supplies of the resource to help keep its huge economy moving.

The North African state produced about 1.6 million barrels per day of oil before the rebellion broke out, but output has since slowed to a trickle.


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