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Libyan Minister Visits Beijing After China Talks With Rebels

  • Stephanie Ho

Abdul Ati al-Obeidi speaks during a news conference in Tripoli (File Photo)

Abdul Ati al-Obeidi speaks during a news conference in Tripoli (File Photo)

China is taking a more active diplomatic role in Libya, where it is pushing for a political resolution to that country’s crisis. Officials Tuesday said the Libyan foreign minister is in Beijing, days after Chinese officials disclosed they have held talks with Libyan rebel forces.

In public, China has not taken sides in the Libyan conflict since it erupted in mid-February. But while Beijing is still officially holding to its neutral position, officials are taking a more active role in what happens in Libya’s future.

On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi is visiting China for the next three days.

Hong says the Libyan official will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to discuss the current situation in Libya and a political resolution to the crisis there.

Hong referred to Obeidi as a special envoy of the Libyan government, which is headed by embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.

At the same briefing, Hong confirmed that Chinese officials based in Egypt recently went to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to meet with forces who are fighting Gadhafi.

He says Chinese diplomats went to Benghazi to learn about the humanitarian situation and to look into the status of Chinese enterprises there. He added that Chinese officials, in his words, also “made contact” with the National Transitional Council rebel force.

When asked if China is planning to offer humanitarian aid to the Libyan rebels, the spokesman declined to give a definitive answer. He said he would have an answer after he learned the relevant information.

On Friday, the Chinese government announced its first meeting with the Libyan rebels - between the Chinese ambassador in Qatar and the head of the transitional council. China’s decision to engage the rebels has been seen as a diplomatic setback for Gadhafi.

Hong also did not directly answer a question about whether China is trying to act as a mediator between the Libyan government and the rebels. Instead, he said only that China is working with the international community to seek a political resolution to the Libyan crisis.

When the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize NATO-led air strikes to stop Gadhafi’s forces from threatening civilians, earlier this year, China and Russia abstained instead of using their veto power. After the air strikes began, China strongly condemned the violence and repeatedly called for a cease-fire.

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