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China urges protection of its assets in Libya
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 23, 2011

China Tuesday urged Libya to protect its assets and expressed hopes its billions of dollars of investment with the oil-rich country would continue after rebels overran the capital Tripoli.

The state Xinhua news agency issued the call to "the new Libyan government" after rebel fighters seeking to end Moamer Kadhafi's 42-year rule seized control of the state television network and Tripoli's seaside Green Square.

China has ploughed billions of dollars into Libya's rail, oil and telecom sectors, and Beijing acknowledged Tuesday that its investments had been hit by the revolt that erupted in February during the "Arab Spring".

Xinhua urged the new regime to protect "lawful" foreign assets, including business contracts and projects with the Kadhafi government and equipment on work sites.

"It is natural for China to keep a close eye on its investments in Libya, and hopefully, through consultation and cooperation, these projects can be taken good care of," it said in a commentary.

"It is also the world community's wish that Libyans will be able to rebuild their country's infrastructure and develop its economy by making full use of its potential as a major oil exporting country."

China, a net oil importer, needs to secure stable supplies of the resource to help keep its economy moving.

Libya produced about 1.6 million barrels per day of oil before the rebellion broke out, but output has since slowed to a trickle.

China currently has 50 large-scale projects worth at least $18.8 billion in Libya, according to the ministry of commerce.

A ministry official Tuesday expressed hopes that China's trade ties with the country would continue, after the government earlier said it respected the Libyan people's choice, but hoped stability would soon be restored.

"China's investments in Libya, particularly our oil investments, reflect mutually beneficial economic cooperation between the two countries," said Wen Zhongliang, deputy director of the commerce ministry's foreign trade department.

"We hope to continue to develop economic and trade cooperation with Libya in every aspect," he told reporters at a briefing Tuesday.

China's largest oil and gas producer has shut down six major projects in several countries including Libya because of political instability, state media reported Tuesday.

Beijing initially maintained a policy of non-interference in the Libyan crisis, but has more recently shifted its position and started taking steps to build contacts with the anti-Kadhafi rebels.

On Tuesday the state-run Global Times newspaper urged the West to help rebuild Libya after the months of violence and a NATO bombing campaign.

"Overthrowing Kadhafi is entertainment for the media, but talk of rebuilding is not," the conservative English-language daily said in an editorial.

"The West has to take responsibility for clearing up its mess in Libya."

The report did not point to a specific country, but Western nations that have thrown diplomatic and financial support behind the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council include Britain, France and the United States.

China has not formally recognised the Libyan opposition.

However, in June, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi hosted senior rebel leader Mahmud Jibril in Beijing and recognised Libya's opposition as an "important dialogue partner".

Libya's embassy in the Chinese capital Beijing flew the opposition flag Tuesday and a Libyan diplomat said the mission was in touch with the rebel movement.

"It's a celebration flag," a Libyan diplomat told journalists outside the embassy in downtown Beijing.

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