China's Hu warns Sarkozy on Libya strikes

30th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Coalition military strikes on Libya could violate the "intention" of the UN resolution if civilians suffer, Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday told visiting French leader Nicolas Sarkozy.

The tough talk from Hu came during a meeting at the start of Sarkozy's mini-tour of Asia, which will include a G20 meeting on global monetary reform and a stop in disaster-struck Japan.

Britain, France and the United States on March 19 launched air strikes on Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's forces under the auspices of a UN Security Council resolution authorising "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

"The aim of the UN's resolution is to stop violence and protect civilians," China Central Television quoted Hu as saying in talks with Sarkozy at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

"If the military action brings disaster to innocent civilians and creates a bigger humanitarian crisis, that would violate the original intention of the Security Council resolution," Hu said.

"China disapproves of using military force in international affairs."

Kadhafi's forces are embroiled in a battle with rebels looking to put an end to the Libyan strongman's 41 years in power. Sarkozy has said France recognised the rebel council as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

China, which consistently opposes moves deemed to interfere in the affairs of other countries, abstained from the UN Security Council vote, although it did not use its veto power.

"Dialogue and other peaceful means are the only way to resolve this problem," Hu said, adding that China supports an immediate ceasefire to prevent the further loss of civilian life and restore stability as soon as possible.

Sarkozy -- who has spearheaded the coalition operation against Kadhafi -- also expressed support for a resolution to the Libya crisis through political and diplomatic means, the state Xinhua news agency reported.

The harsh words from Hu -- which came ahead of a working dinner -- set the tone for Sarkozy's lightning visit to China. He was to spend less than 24 hours in the country before heading to Japan.

In a speech made earlier to inaugurate the new French embassy in Beijing, Sarkozy said the two countries were "not in agreement on everything."

The French leader was due to head later to the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, where he will open a meeting on Thursday of finance ministers and central bankers from G20 nations on global monetary reform.

France currently holds the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies.

The meeting -- which comes as the global recovery faces major challenges such as Japan's quake-tsunami disaster and the ongoing eurozone debt woes -- aims to hone in on key ways to reform the monetary system.

Sarkozy said Wednesday he hoped the seminar would spark a debate about "a hugely necessary reform of the international monetary system."

"We must fight against... monetary instability that risks reducing to nothing the competitive efforts that you are all making," he said.

However presidential aides have already made clear that Paris is not expecting any "decision" or "conclusion" from the Nanjing meeting, which will feature a speech from International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

At a meeting in Paris in February, the G20 agreed to a set of indicators to measure economic imbalances between surplus exporters such as China and nations with structural deficits such as the United States.

But China has baulked at many of the indicators amid fears they could result in more pressure over its yuan currency, which critics argue is massively undervalued, giving the Asian powerhouse an unfair trade advantage.

After Sarkozy delivers the opening speech, he will head to Japan in a show of solidarity from France and both the G8 and G20 after the March 11 disaster, which has left nearly 11,000 confirmed dead and sparked a nuclear crisis.

The French leader will meet Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Tokyo before heading home.

© 2011 AFP

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