June 30, 2008 / 6:35 AM / in 10 years

Rice presses China and Africa on Zimbabwe

BEIJING (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday pressed China and African powers to back international action on Zimbabwe, while also raising hopes of fresh nuclear talks soon with North Korea.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said he would ask for U.N. action against what he called Zimbabwe’s illegitimate government following President Robert Mugabe’s re-election in a poll widely criticized for violence and intimidation.

China and leading African powers have so far shied away from endorsing such steps. And following meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and then President Hu Jintao, Rice told reporters that she wanted “not just another statement” from the United Nations.

Rice urged the African Union, which is holding a summit due to discuss Zimbabwe, to back stronger action over Mugabe’s controversial re-election.

“This is not an African issue alone ... it is an issue for the Security Council,” Rice said. “But I think we are all looking for something out of the African Union.”

Rice was on the second and final day of a visit to China, where she first went to an earthquake-devastated city in the southwest before taking up Iran, North Korea and other international hotspots in talks in Beijing.

China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Sunday held back from saying where he stood on the U.N. steps on Zimbabwe floated by Washington.

But Rice held up brighter hopes for cooperation with Beijing over North Korea, which last week took a step forward in curtailing its nuclear weapons ambitions.

On Thursday, North Korea delivered a long-delayed list of its nuclear activities, as it was required to do in a disarmament-for-aid deal reached in talks hosted by China.

In a symbolic move to show its commitment to the nuclear deal, the North also toppled the cooling tower at its plutonium-producing reactor on Friday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shakes hands with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo before their meeting in Beijing June 30, 2008. REUTERS/Oded Balilty/Pool


China, which hosts six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, is seen as key to persuading its communist neighbor to embrace deeper nuclear disarmament steps in future talks.

Rice said she expected that China would soon announce a fresh round of the talks, which also include North and South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia.

Chief envoys in the talks would meet before any date was set for a meeting of her and other foreign ministers from the six countries, Rice said.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“We really do have to get some steps forward on verification,” she said of the negotiations.

President Hu Jintao pledged that Beijing would continue to strengthen ties with Washington, which have endured friction on a raft of issues, ranging from military spending to trade imbalances.

Ties were at an "important juncture," Hu told Rice in a transcript of their meeting posted on the central government website (www.gov.cn).

“Whatever changes take place in the United States and the international situation, our principle of developing constructive, cooperative relations with the United States will not change,” said Hu.

Rice said she also raised human rights issues, including Internet restrictions and China’s policies in Tibet, during her meetings with Chinese leaders.

She welcomed China’s announcement on Sunday that it will soon hold fresh talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader.

“I hope there will be some positive developments and some momentum behind the talks,” she said. “This is the way to deal with the issue.”

Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing by Chris Buckley and Ian Ransom; Editing by Alex Richardson

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