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Asia-Pacific
Libyan rebel official in China for talks
Senior foreign affairs official likely to press Beijing for financial assistance during two-day visit.
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2011 11:24
Mahmoud Jibril's visit comes after the Libyan foregin minister visited China [AFP]

A senior Libyan rebel leader has arrived in China amid intensifying efforts by Beijing to resolve the crisis in the north African country.

Mahmoud Jibril, a senior foreign affairs official in the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council (NTC), will meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during his two-day visit, ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

"China's immediate task is to promote peace and encourage talks," Hong said on Tuesday, adding the situation in Libya, where rebels are attempted to topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, "should not be left as it is anymore".

"The Libyan crisis has lasted for four months - during this period of time, the people of Libya have suffered to the fullest extent the chaos caused by war, and infrastructure was greatly damaged," Hong said.

"China expresses great concern in this regard."

Pushing for ceasefire

China has taken no firm side in the war between Gaddafi's troops and opposition forces and says its recent meetings with rival Libyan groups were only intended to encourage a ceasefire.

Beijing hosted Libya's Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi earlier this month.

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China was among the emerging powers that abstained in March when the UN Security Council authorised the NATO-led air strikes against Gaddafi's forces. China could have used its veto power as a permanent member.

However, Beijing quickly condemned the expansion of the strikes, and has since urged a ceasefire it says could open the way for compromise between the government and rebels.

Around half of China's crude oil imports last year came from the Middle East and North Africa, where Chinese companies have a big presence. Beijing mobilised navy ships and civil aircraft to help tens of thousands of Chinese workers flee Libya this year.

China's commercial interests in Libya include oil, telecoms and rail projects.

Chinese interests

Observers say the protection of Chinese interests in Libya was likely to be on the agenda in talks with the visiting rebel official.

Only 5.68 per cent of the losses suffered by 13 Chinese state-owned companies in Libya were covered by insurance, the Global Times reported, citing other state media. The newspaper said total losses could amount to $20bn.

China was forced to evacuate more than 35,000 workers from Libya when unrest broke out four months ago [AFP]

The West has also 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.

Jibril could also ask senior Chinese officials for financial help, as the council has set a budget of around $3.5bn for the next six months.

At a conference in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, donors vowed to help the rebels with cash and supplies.

Italy promised loans and aid worth $438-584m. France meanwhile said it would release $415.9m of frozen Libyan funds for the NTC.

Diplomats said $180m had been pledged by Kuwait and $100m by Qatar.

Source:
Agencies
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