'China respects Libyan people's choice'

  • AFP, Beijing
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 22, 2011 03:21 IST

China said on Monday it "respects the Libyan people's choice" after rebels in the war-torn North African country entered the capital Tripoli and threatened to topple its leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The foreign ministry's comments came as heavy fighting raged near Kadhafi's Tripoli compound, prompting the United States to say the embattled strongman's regime was at a "tipping point".

"China respects the Libyan people's choice and hopes Libya will return to stability soon and the people will lead a normal life," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

"China is willing to work with the international community to play a constructive role in the future reconstruction of Libya."

Chinese economic interests in Libya include oil, railway and telecoms projects, and it has been taking on a more active role recently in the crisis afflicting the major energy producer.

Rebels in Libya staged a lightning strike through Tripoli on Sunday, and fighting continued a day later as pockets of resistance from Kadhafi loyalists remained in the capital.

The whereabouts of Kadhafi were unknown but one of his sons, Seif al-Islam, has been arrested while another, Muammar Gaddafi, was interviewed by Al-Jazeera television cowering in his house, afraid to leave.

US President Barack Obama said Gaddafi's 42-year autocratic regime was at a "tipping point" and that the "tyrant" must go, calling also on the rebels to respect human rights and move to democracy.

A spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, meanwhile, said the end of the Kadhafi regime was near and called for the strongman to relinquish all power to avoid further bloodshed.

China had initially maintained a policy of non-interference and public neutrality on the conflict in Libya, calling multiple times for a peaceful end to the popular uprising.

But in recent months, it has become more involved in the crisis, and Chinese officials have met several times with members of the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council (NTC).

In June, Beijing recognised Libya's opposition as an "important dialogue partner" after talks in the Chinese capital between foreign minister Yang Jiechi and senior rebel leader Mahmud Jibril.

China mounted a massive land, sea and air operation to evacuate nearly 36,000 of its nationals -- most of them working in the rail, oil and telecom sectors -- from Libya after fighting first broke out in February.

The West has thrown its diplomatic and financial support behind the NTC, which has been recognised by about a dozen countries including Britain, France and the United States.


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