Tuesday, March 22, 2011

China warns of "humanitarian disaster" in Libya

China warned of a "humanitarian disaster" in Libya and expressed "deep concern" at reported civilian casualties as it renewed calls on Tuesday for an end to fighting in the North African country.

China "opposes causing even more civilian casualties through the use of armed force", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing. "We again call on all sides to observe an immediate cease-fire."
"We've seen reports of how the use of armed force is causing civilian casualties, and we oppose the wanton use of armed force leading to more civilian casualties and more humanitarian disasters," she said.
Western powers began strikes against Libya over the weekend in a U.N.-mandated campaign to target air defences, enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's forces.
Jiang would not say directly whether the air attacks on Libya were in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution.
In last week's vote, 10 countries supported the resolution and the other five council members abstained. Those included China and Russia, which refrained from using their veto power.
China's official newspapers on Monday stepped up Beijing's opposition to the Western air attacks on Libya, accusing nations backing the strikes of breaking international rules and courting new turmoil in the Middle East.
Though Beijing is unlikely to go beyond verbal sparring with Western governments over the strikes, its opposition could win points with Arab and other nations that may become more alarmed if the air attacks continue and bring more casualties.
China's handling of Western pressure on Libya has laid bare the quandaries facing Beijing in the Middle East, an important source of oil for the world's second-largest economy.
At the weekend, Saudi Arabia's Aramco announced its latest proposal to supply crude oil to a refinery in southwest China, where Beijing is building an oil pipeline that slices through Myanmar.
About half of China's crude imports last year came from the Middle East and North Africa.
China wants to diversify its supplies, but Arab countries and Iran hold so much of the world's reserves that they are sure to remain major suppliers.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Writing by Ben Blanchard, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)


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