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China urges 'inclusive transition' in Libya

21 october 2011, 13:31
China called Friday for an "inclusive political transition" in Libya after the death of ousted leader Moamer Kadhafi in an assault by National Transitional Council forces on Sirte, his home town, AFP reports.

Beijing, which has significant economic interests in the oil-rich North African country, had long helped prop up the Kadhafi regime before the uprising began.

China criticised NATO airstrikes which boosted the progress of the Libyan uprising and has been accused of trying to sell weapons to the former dictator in July.

It only formally recognised the NTC as Libya's government last month -- becoming the last permanent member of the UN Security Council to do so.

Reacting to Kadhafi's death, China's foreign ministry said Libya had "opened a new page" in history.

"We hope Libya will be able to start an inclusive political transition process as soon as possible to safeguard ethnic and national unity and achieve social stability," said ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

The demise on Thursday of the hated dictator, who ruled his oil-rich North African nation with an iron rod for close on 42 years, sparked a spontaneous outpouring of joy and celebratory gunfire in streets across Libya.

In Tripoli, interim premier Mahmud Jibril said NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil was to declare by Friday that the country had been liberated, paving the way for the formation of an interim government ahead of elections.

China has invested billions of dollars in rail, oil and telecoms in Libya and Jiang expressed hope the country could now "rebuild its economy so the people can live a peaceful and happy life".

Underlining the scale of its economic involvement in the country, China had to evacuate nearly 36,000 of its nationals from Libya in a huge land, sea and air operation in February, when fighting first broke out.

Last month, it asked the NTC to guarantee the interests of Chinese companies in Libya amid fears in Beijing the new government may give preferential treatment to Western countries that supported them.

Beijing has commercial and strategic reasons for not wanting the West to exert too much influence in Libya and has said in the past it wants the United Nations to lead reconstruction efforts.

China is a major oil importer and needs to secure stable supplies of the resource to help keep its huge economy moving. The commerce ministry said in March that Chinese companies had 50 large-scale projects worth at least $18.8 billion in Libya.

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