BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top official newspaper warned Western powers to let the United Nations lead post-war reconstruction in Libya, saying on Thursday that Beijing would seek to defend its economic stake after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.
The People’s Daily, the main paper of China’s ruling Communist Party, laid bare Beijing’s qualms about the influence the United States, European powers and NATO may claim in post-war Libya. It appeared on the day leaders meet in Paris to discuss the future of the north African nation.
The U.N. issue could feature at the “Friends of Libya” meeting that will include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders. China has sent a relatively junior representative, Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, to attend as an observer.
“As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has full reason to stress the leading role of the United Nations,” said a commentary in the Chinese-language People’s Daily, referring to Libya, where rebels are trying to wipe out resistance from Gaddafi’s supporters.
Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Libya, showed what could go wrong if the U.N. is not the top body guiding international involvement in post-war rebuilding, said the newspaper.
“Looking back at these three local wars since the start of this century, it’s easy to discern a pattern: the United Nations gets involved quite quickly and early on, but as developments evolve, the United States and its NATO allies come to the fore and steadily push out the U.N.,” it said.
Repeating that pattern could hurt the Libyan people, as well as China’s own stake, said the People’s Daily.
“Stressing the leading role of the U.N. in Libyan affairs is to protect fairness in the country’s reconstruction,” it said, noting China’s investments in Libya’s telecommunications and construction sectors.
“China is willing to play an active role in Libya’s reconstruction, and will give due attention to its legitimate interests in Libya,” said the commentary.
The commentary appeared under a pen name “Zhong Sheng,” a name suggesting the “voice of China,” which is sometimes used to reflect higher level opinion. It reinforced recent comments from Chinese officials, who have joined Russia and Brazil in demanding the U.N. come to the fore in Libya.
Energy, construction and telecom firms will be eager to secure a foothold in Libya after a six-month war.
Libya’s interim council has promised rewards for those who took a lead role in backing the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, and that has raised concerns that China could be disadvantaged.
China is the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, and last year it obtained 3 percent of its imported crude from Libya.
China did not use its U.N. Security Council veto power in March to block a resolution that authorised the NATO bombing campaign against Gaddafi’s forces, but it then condemned the expanding strikes and urged compromise between his government and rebels.
Beijing had since courted Libyan rebel leaders, and last week urged a “stable transition of power.
China’s past projects in Libya should not hinder relations with the country’s new leaders, said the People’s Daily.
“These investments were normal economic cooperation between the two countries,” said the paper. “They were not a gift to Gaddafi, and nor should they hinder China’s dealings with the new government in Libya.”
Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Frederik Richter