Libya FM in China, as Beijing talks to rebels
BEIJING - Libya's foreign minister will visit China this week, the government said Tuesday, after Chinese diplomats held more talks with rebels looking to wrest power from the oil-rich nation's leader Moamer Gathafi.
The flurry of diplomatic activity seemed to indicate that China was stepping up its involvement in efforts to defuse the months-long crisis in the north African state.
The Libyan foreign minister, Abdelati al-Obeidi, was due to visit Beijing from Tuesday to Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
Al-Obeidi had entered Tunisia on Monday, local media reported. He had previously transited through Tunisia four times to hold discussions abroad on the popular uprising against Gathafi's regime that erupted in mid-February.
Chinese diplomats based in Egypt meanwhile travelled to the eastern Libyan rebel-held city of Benghazi "to gain an understanding of the humanitarian situation and the situation for Chinese investing entities", the ministry said.
It said the trip was also intended to "maintain contact with the National Transitional Council", the leadership body established by opposition forces, and urged all sides in the Libyan conflict to seek a political solution.
It gave no other details such as when the delegation arrived or how long it would stay.
The visit marks the second time in recent days that China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has made contact with the opposition.
China said on Friday that its ambassador to Qatar, Zhang Zhiliang, met recently with Libyan opposition leader Mustapha Abdul-Jalil, but did not say where the meeting took place and gave few details on the discussions.
Russia also said on Monday that President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy Mikhail Margelov would meet Libyan rebel leaders in Benghazi on Tuesday but would not travel to Tripoli.
Russia, also a permanent Security Council member, and China abstained from the UN Security Council vote in March that gave the go-ahead for international military action against Gathafi's regime.
China has previously spoken of its concerns that the NATO-led bombing in Libya was overstepping a Council resolution authorising "humanitarian" intervention in the conflict and repeatedly called for a ceasefire.
Beijing consistently opposes moves deemed to interfere in the affairs of other countries.
Gathafi's forces are embroiled in a battle with rebels looking to put an end to his more than four decades in power.