Sarkozy invites China to Libya conference

25th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

China was considering an invitation to attend a Paris conference on Libya's future, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday, despite Beijing's opposition to NATO air strikes on the nation.

Following a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a five-hour visit to Beijing, Sarkozy urged China to take part in forming a "unanimous vision among the international community" of Libya's future.

"We have proposed that they be invited to the Paris conference that will prepare for a free Libya, the Libya of tomorrow," Sarkozy told reporters after his talks.

"President Hu indicated he would consider this invitation in a welcoming spirit."

Sarkozy said a day earlier that he had invited the countries he regards as "the friends of Libya" to talks in Paris on September 1 on the future of the country without Moamer Kadhafi.

Sarkozy said that, as well as countries that took part in the campaign against Kadhafi, China, Russia, India and Brazil had been invited.

"This meeting goes well beyond the contact group," he said, referring to the coalition of NATO members and allied Arab states that are carrying out air strikes or sending cash and arms to help the NTC rebels.

Besides the conflict in Libya, where France has played a major role in support of the rebel movement, Sarkozy and Hu also discussed the European debt crisis and the November Group of 20 summit of the world's largest economies.

The French president flew into China hours after meeting the prime minister of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council, Mahmud Jibril, as fighters in the capital Tripoli sought to hand a knockout blow to Kadhafi's 42-year regime.

Beijing, which has invested billions of dollars in rail, oil and telecoms in Libya, opposed NATO air strikes there and initially maintained a policy of non-interference and public neutrality on the conflict.

But it then shifted its position and began opening contacts with the rebels. After opposition forces in the war-torn North African country entered the capital Tripoli, Beijing said it "respects the Libyan people's choice".

It has urged the United Nations -- and not the Western powers that backed the opposition movement -- to lead the reconstruction effort in the oil-rich North African country, a position that France also adheres to.

© 2011 AFP

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