China said on Friday it has "serious reservations" about a UN decision calling for a no-fly zone over strife-torn Libya, but held back from blocking the resolution because of the demands of Arab and African countries.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu laid out Beijing's worries after the Security Council passed the resolution authorising the no-fly zone over Libya as well as "all necessary measures", a term for military action, to protect civilians against leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.
Ten of the council's 15 member states voted for the resolution, but Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstained. China and Russia could have used their power as permanent members of the council to veto the decision.
Jiang's comments showed China sought to balance its worries about authorising possible military action with the demands of Arab and other governments angered by Gaddafi's unyielding response to uprisings demanding an end to his rule.
Throughout the recent tumult across the Middle East and north Africa, China has sought to avoid becoming deeply enmeshed and has little appetite for turning the regional upheaval into a point of confrontation with the United States.
The UN Security Council should seek to "resolve the current Libyan crisis through dialogue and other peaceful means," Jiang said in a statement on the ministry website (www.mfa.gov.cn).
"We oppose the use of armed force in international relations, and have serious reservations about some of the content
of the resolution."
The resolution could lead to a dramatic escalation of international involvement in the conflict that erupted last month between Gaddafi loyalists and rebels trying to topple him. China has long said that it opposes armed international intervention in other countries' internal conflicts.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York, Russian and Chinese envoys said the resolution's backers failed to explain adequately how the no-fly zone would work and what the rules of engagement would be.
But the Arab League had requested that the no-fly zone be imposed. Jiang made clear that this weighed on China's decision to abstain, rather than oppose, the resolution.
"In view of the concerns and stance of the Arab countries and African Union and the special circumstances that currently apply in Libya, China and other countries abstained, and did not block the passing of the resolution," said Jiang.
UN diplomats said they understood the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were among Arab League members prepared to take part in enforcing the no-fly zone.
In February, China joined a unanimous Security Council resolution for an arms embargo and other sanctions targeting Gaddafi and 15 members of his inner circle.