A top Iraqi official is in Beijing seeking help from China in Baghdad's struggles with the United States and the United Nations. China is both a friend of Iraq and one of the U.N.'s most important members.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri started a three-day visit to China Monday and has meetings slated with China's foreign minister on Tuesday.

They are expected to discuss U.S. threats to launch a military campaign to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime, as well as Iraq's continuing dispute with the United Nations over weapons inspectors.

China is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

At the end of the Gulf War, Iraq promised to get rid of its programs to develop nuclear, chemical, and germ weapons, but it blocked U.N. attempts to verify that the promise was being kept.

Professor Xue Mouhong, an expert in China's foreign relations, says China will urge Iraq to comply with the U.N. resolutions and allow the inspectors to enter the country and do their work. "I think that is the only way to ... show that Iraq is really willing to settle the problem politically and diplomatically," he said. "It will not give the U.S. a reason to use force against Iraq."

Professor Xue says a war in Iraq would hurt China and many other nations by sharply boosting oil prices just as some nations are beginning to recover from a global recession. "We think the whole world economy is still quite fragile," he said.

The Iraqi foreign minister is in Beijing at the same time as the U.S. deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. But American Embassy officials say they are not aware of any plan for these top-ranking diplomats to hold any sort of talks.