China sends vice-minister to 'observe' Libya meet

31st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

China said Wednesday it was sending a vice-minister to "observe" a Paris conference on the future of Libya, whose rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) Beijing has not officially recognised.

Around 60 nations are expected to be represented at Thursday's Friends of Libya conference, to be co-chaired by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.

US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all said they will attend, while most other participants said they would send their foreign ministers.

China said it would be represented by its Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun at the meeting, which will seek to address the reconstruction of Libya after months of violence and decades of misrule under Moamer Kadhafi's regime.

France and Britain have invited the head of the NTC and his number two, Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Mahmud Jibril.

China's foreign ministry said Jun would attend "as the representative and observer of the Chinese government".

"China supports relevant parties' efforts to restore the stability of Libya and facilitate the stable transfer of Libya's political power," spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

"We are also willing to play a positive role in the future rebuilding of Libya together with the international community."

President Sarkozy last week invited China to the meeting during a five-hour visit to Beijing, urging the nation to take part in forming a "unanimous vision among the international community" of Libya's future.

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

But it later began opening contacts with the rebels and said it recognised them as an "important dialogue partner", breaking with its tradition of "non-interference".

After opposition forces entered the capital Tripoli, Beijing said it "respected the Libyan people's choice", but it has stopped short of joining some 50 other nations in formally recognising the NTC.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the world's second-largest economy, has made clear it does not want to be left out of decisions on Libya's future.

On Monday, it approved a European request for a UN sanctions committee to release $1.6 billion of frozen Libyan assets to buy humanitarian aid, one day after blocking it.

© 2011 AFP

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