China voices misgivings about Libya "no-fly" zone plan

Reuters , Tuesday 1 Mar 2011

China stops short of supporting any military action but backs arms embargo

China said on Tuesday it hoped the crisis in Libya would be resolved peacefully though talks, and suggested it had misgivings about any military action or no-fly zones over the strife-torn north African country.

China supported a U.N. Security Council resolution on Saturday for an arms embargo and other sanctions targeting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle, and referred the crackdown to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

But China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing was concerned about suggestions by some foreign governments of military action against Libya, and setting up no-fly zones to protect Libyans from attacks by Gaddafi's forces.

"We have noticed this and are playing close attention," Jiang told a regular news briefing.

"We are paying a great deal of attention to what is happening in Libya. We hope that it can return to stability as soon as possible and its problems can be resolved peacefully through dialogue," she said.

"We hope that the international community can make constructive efforts to ensure that Libya returns to stability as soon as possible."

The United States and other nations discussed on Monday measures to deal with Libya as Gaddafi scoffed at a popular uprising against his rule. British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government would work to prepare for a "no-fly" zone.

China has sent ships and planes to evacuate more than 30,000 of its nationals in Libya. Li Baodong, China's ambassador to the United Nations, told fellow Security Council members that concerns about these citizens had played a key role in his decision to vote for the U.N. resolution.

Beijing is generally reluctant to criticise authoritarian governments in the developing world, but also tends to avoid forthright public clashes with other Security Council powers, and uses more oblique words to voice its concerns.

Jiang stuck to that tone in her comments on Libya.

"The priority is for the violence to end, to avoid casualties and to make constructive efforts to help Libya return to peace and stability," she said.

Some U.S. officials have expressed concern a vote on a no-fly zone could be harder to secure at the Security Council where veto-wielding members Russia and China may resist.

The United States, whose Sixth Fleet operates out of Italy, said it was moving U.S. naval and air forces closer to Libya and working on contingency plans, including humanitarian assistance. Analysts said military action against Gaddafi was unlikely.

European nations, who buy most of Libya's oil exports, have mulled the idea of temporarily freezing payments to avoid having money get to Gaddafi's regime and Australia was among those calling for a no-fly zone over the North African nation.

World leaders have repeatedly denounced Gaddafi's use of force against civilians and urged him to quit, but have been slow to take concrete action, constrained until expatriate workers were evacuated from Libya.

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