Libya opposition leader to visit China, further boosting Beijing’s engagement in the civil war

BEIJING, China – China said Monday that Libya’s opposition leader would visit this week, further boosting Beijing’s engagement in the North African country’s civil war and dealing another setback to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a one-sentence statement posted on its website that Mahmoud Jibril would be in China on Tuesday and Wednesday. No other details were immediately available.

Jibril chairs the executive board of the Transitional National Council, the umbrella organization of rebel groups trying to unseat Gadhafi.

China stayed on the sidelines for the first few months after the revolt against Gadhafi’s government erupted in mid-February, but it has recently stepped up efforts to persuade the two sides to seek a settlement.

Chinese diplomats in Qatar met with the rebel council chairman, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, earlier this month, and Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi was dispatched to Beijing days later in an apparent attempt to reassert the Libyan government’s influence.

Beijing has pointedly avoided joining international calls for Gadhafi to step down, saying that is for the Libyan people to decide. It also abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote authorizing the use of force against Libyan government loyalists and has repeatedly criticized the NATO bombing campaign in support of the rebels.

When fighting erupted in Libya, China dispatched military transport planes and arranged chartered boats to evacuate an estimated 30,000 Chinese working there, mostly in the construction and oil industries, comprising one of the largest blocs of foreign labourers.


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