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China Signals Potential Opposition to No-Fly Zone Over Libya

Li Baodong, Chinas ambassador to the United Nations
Li Baodong, Chinas ambassador to the United Nations. Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

China joined Russia today in signaling potential opposition to imposing a no-fly zone over Libya if fighting continues between protesters and forces loyal to leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Li Baodong, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, didn’t explicitly rule out support for a move by the Security Council to police air space over Libya. Instead, Li outlined three guiding “principles” to China’s position, emphasizing the need for diplomacy to resolve the crisis and respect for Libya’s territorial integrity.

“We believe that this political crisis should be resolved through peaceful means such as dialogue,” Li told reporters at the UN in New York. “We respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Libya.”

The third principle, that China would “heed and respect the opinions and positions of Arab countries and African countries,” left room for maneuvering.

The Arab League today said it may support and work with the African Union to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. “The Arab countries cannot stand with their hands tied regarding the bloodshed that the brotherly Libyan people are being subjected to,” the group said in a statement in Cairo after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday described the idea of imposing limits on Libyan air space as “superfluous,” the Associated Press reported. Lavrov said world powers must instead focus on fully using the sanctions approved by the UN Security Council on Feb. 26, AP reported.

‘Serious Interference’

“A ban on the national air force or civil aviation to fly over their own territory is still a serious interference into the domestic affairs of another country, and at any rate it requires a resolution of the UN Security Council,” Russian NATO ambassador Dmitri Rogozin told the Interfax news agency yesterday.

China and Russia, as permanent members of the Security Council, could veto any draft resolution to authorize a no-fly zone.

A “no-fly zone is an option we are actively considering, discussing with allies and partners,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Feb. 28.

The U.S. Senate yesterday called for imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, approved a non-binding resolution that also endorsed U.S. outreach to forces opposing Qaddafi’s regime.

British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered his military chiefs on Feb. 28 to draw up plans for a no-fly zone.

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