China says envoy from Libyan rebels to visit soon

China has repeatedly criticised NATO`s bombing campaign against Muammar Gaddafi`s forces.

Beijing: China on Thursday said envoys from Libya`s main opposition group will visit the country soon, further boosting its engagement in Libya`s civil war and dealing another setback to dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Chen Xiaodong, director general of the Foreign Ministry`s West Asian and North African Affairs Department, said China was "ready to receive a visit" from representatives of the National Transitional Council "in the near future”, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. He did not give a date for the visit.

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

Last week, Chinese diplomats in Qatar met with the leader of the transitional council. That was followed on Wednesday by a meeting in China between Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Libyan counterpart, Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi, who was apparently dispatched to Beijing to reassert the Libyan government`s influence.

The rebel group has been appealing for diplomatic recognition and financial support with mixed results. Although a few countries have recognised the council as the legitimate government of Libya, the United States and several other key nations have not.

Beijing has repeatedly criticised NATO`s bombing campaign against Gaddafi`s forces and has pointedly avoided joining international calls for Gaddafi to step down, saying that is for the Libyan people to decide. But its decision to engage the rebels has been a diplomatic setback for Gaddafi.

The revolt against the dictator followed popular uprisings that overturned the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt. A coalition of rebels has seized control of much of eastern Libya and set up an administration based in Benghazi.

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.

Bureau Report

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