(Updates with ministry comments, background)
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING, Sep 12 (Reuters) - China recognised the rebel
National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's "ruling
authority", the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday, saying
the Council had vowed to respect Beijing's interests after
tensions between the two sides.
The announcement on the ministry's website (www.mfa.gov.cn)
ended weeks of uncertainty about when Beijing would formally
embrace the rebel forces who have overwhelmed Muammar Gaddafi's
China had been, along with Russia, one of the few major
countries to withhold recognition from the rebels, and Beijing's
relations with the new ruling NTC were further strained by
revelations that Chinese state-owned arms companies talked with
Gaddafi's representatives about weapons sales.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu sought to put
all that in the past when he announced his government's decision
to recognise the NTC.
"China recognises the Transitional Council as the governing
authority in Libya and representative of the Libyan people, and
we are willing to work with it to promote the stable transition
and development of Sino-Libyan relations," said Ma.
"We hope that the various treaties and agreements previously
signed between China and Libya will continue to remain effective
and be conscientiously implemented," said Ma.
The Chinese announcement cited an unnamed Libyan rebel
leader as expressing satisfaction that Beijing had recognised
the NTC, promising to abide by past treaties and agreements, and
welcoming China's participation in rebuilding the war-ravaged
north African country, where fighting continues.
If that is the NTC's official position, it will come as a
relief to China, which was criticised by some rebels.
Libya's interim council has promised rewards for those who
took a leading role in backing the revolt against Gaddafi, and
has raised concerns that China could be disadvantaged.
Last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry acknowledged that
Chinese arms firms held talks with representatives of Gaddafi in
July over weapons sales, but said the talks were behind
Beijing's back and never resulted in arms being shipped.
As well, although China had agreed with other powers to
unfreeze $15 billion of Libyan assets abroad, it opposed handing
control of more to the interim ruling council, citing worries
about oversight and control of the funds.
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 condemned the
expanding strikes and repeatedly urged compromise between his
government and the rebels.
China is the world's second-biggest oil consumer and last
year obtained 3 percent of its imported crude from Libya.
The Toronto Globe and Mail reported that documents found in
the Libyan capital, Tripoli, indicated that Chinese companies
offered to sell rocket launchers, anti-tank missiles and other
arms with a total of some $200 million to Gaddafi's forces,
despite the U.N. ban on such sales.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)
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