The leader of Libya’s rebel opposition arrived here for talks on Tuesday as a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman for the first time described the opposition as “an important political power in Libya.”
The leader, Mahmoud Jibril, was scheduled to meet with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, during his two-day visit, the spokesman announced at a news conference. The foreign ministry tends to be very conscious of protocol, and the meeting with Jibril comes after Yang met with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s foreign minister in Beijing this month.
China has consistently preached nonintervention in recent years and has opposed international efforts to put pressure on even repressive governments like those in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Myanmar and North Korea.
When the United Nations Security Council voted in March to authorise airstrikes against Qaddafi’s forces to prevent them from killing civilians in opposition areas, China was one of five countries that abstained.
Asked if inviting an opposition leader to negotiations reflected China’s desire to be prepared no matter which side wins in the Libyan conflict, ministry’s spokesman, Hong Lei, replied in part: “We believe that Libya’s future should be decided by the Libyan people. China respects the Libyan people’s freedom of choice.” The new york times