China reiterates opposition to use of force on Iraqis

November 09, 1990|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEIJING -- Despite reports this week that China would not veto a resolution by the United Nations authorizing military force in the Persian Gulf, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said yesterday that China remained opposed to the use of force to resolve the Middle East crisis.

"We oppose the occurrence of military conflict in the gulf," Li Jinhua said at a weekly news briefing.

Her comments were in line with China's publicly stated position since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait Aug. 2. But they ran counter to reports Tuesday from Cairo, Egypt, where, after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, U.S. officials said Mr. Qian had indicated privately that China would not oppose a U.N. resolution endorsing the use of force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.

Ms. Li would neither confirm nor deny that China had taken that position in the Cairo talks.

On Wednesday in Cairo, Mr. Qian also underscored China's reluctance to give public support to the use of force in the Middle East in telling reporters that more consultations were needed before the United Nations could make such a decision, according to a wire service report.

As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with potential veto power over any of the council's resolutions, China has supported all U.N. resolutions against Iraq. In line with those resolutions, it also has stopped its large weapons sales to Baghdad.

At last week's briefing, Ms. Li noted that China already had suffered at least $2 billion in lost non-military trade because of the U.N. trade embargo against Iraq.

One report from the Middle East this week indicated that China was seeking financial assistance from other nations to recoup these losses.

The Cairo meeting with Mr. Baker was Mr. Qian's first stop on a self-described peace mission that also will take him to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq.

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