BEIJING China said on Saturday that sanctions against Zimbabwe's government would "complicate", rather than ease, conflict in the troubled African country, defending its decision to veto a proposed U.N. resolution.
The Western-backed resolution would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and 13 other officials, and authorized a United Nations special envoy for the southern African nation.
But on Friday, five U.N. Security Council members -- including veto-holding Russia and China -- opposed it, sinking proposed sanctions that condemned Mugabe for gaining re-election through violence and intimidation.
China's decision to block the sanctions may bruise relations with Western powers weeks before Beijing hosts the Olympic Games. China also faces international pressure over Sudan, where international prosecutors are pursuing arrests for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry's chief spokesman Liu Jianchao was quick to defend the veto as right for Zimbabwe.
"Under present conditions, passing a sanctions resolution against Zimbabwe would not help to encourage the various factions there to engage in political dialogue and negotiations and achieve results," Liu said in a statement on the Ministry's Web site (www.fmprc.gov.cn).
"On the contrary, it would further complicate conditions in Zimbabwe," Liu said, adding that China's call that the African Union (AU) be given more time for mediation was ignored.
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from a June 27 presidential run-off poll, citing attacks on his supporters by pro-Mugabe militia.
The MDC and Western powers branded Mugabe's landslide re-election a sham.
In Zimbabwe, the opposition on Friday accused government security forces of murdering a polling agent in fresh political violence that could undermine talks in South Africa.
"The international community should provide constructive help" for South Africa's and the AU's mediation efforts, Liu said. "Avoid adopting actions that could have a negative effect on the atmosphere for dialogue."
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Valerie Lee)