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China Concerned About US Military Buildup Near Iraq - 2003-01-23

China turned up the diplomatic heat on the United States over the Iraq crisis Thursday, saying Beijing's position was close to that of France, whose president says everything must be done to avoid war.

China's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue says Beijing is "worried and concerned" by the gathering of U.S. military forces near Iraq.

She says China has always called for time to work out a political and diplomatic resolution to the Iraq issue. This echoes Wednesday's comments from French president Jacques Chirac.

France says it will not back a United Nations resolution authorizing military action at this time, and might veto such a measure.

The Chinese and French comments follow reports that the United States military is now ready for possible action against Iraq.

Top U.S. officials have said they think a large number of countries are willing to take part in military action against Iraq if Baghdad refuses to give up its alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

But French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder say the crisis should be solved without force and U.N. weapons inspectors must be given time to finish their work. Washington has previously rejected giving the inspectors additional time.

U.N. weapons experts have been searching Iraq to find its store of banned weapons, and a status report on the inspections is due at the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

The U.N. chief inspector, Hans Blix, has said that Iraq has not properly disclosed details of its weapons program.