State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan made the remark in Beijing at a meeting with Jalal Talabani, a leader of the Iraqi Kurds and a member of the interim Governing Council, the China Daily said on Friday.

 

Tang also told his visitor that China was ready to assume a "positive role" in the “economic reconstruction” of Iraq under United States occupation.

 

Uncertain future

  

Chinese companies were engaged in extensive business with the deposed Iraqi government, but these deals now face an uncertain future following the invasion.

 

The China National Petroleum Corp. in June 1997 signed a contract with Baghdad allowing the Chinese oil giant to develop the al-Ahdab oil field in southern Iraq, for instance.

  

Chinese companies were engaged in extensive business with the deposed Iraqi government, but these deals now face an uncertain future following the invasion.

But in May this year, Iraq's oil minister was quoted as saying that the contract had been frozen.

  

The China Aviation Technology Import-Export Corp. (CATIC) meanwhile won a contract to sell meteorological satellite and surface observation equipment to Iraq, according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank.

  

CATIC also received United Nations approval in July 2000 to sell fibre optic cables to Iraq worth two million US dollars, the Heritage Foundation said.

  

Talabani's visit comes on the heels of the  Saddam Hussein-appointed Iraqi ambassador's refusal to leave Beijing, despite being recalled by the Governing Council. A reluctant Ambassador Muwaffaq al-Ani finally left Beijing this week.

  

Talabani, whose visit has come after the ambassador left, heads the first Iraqi delegation to visit China after the invasion of Iraq.