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China 'working unswervingly' toward Iraq solution, official news agency says

BEIJING — China has been "working unswervingly" toward a peaceful solution to the situation in Iraq and remains adamantly opposed to war, the government's official Xinhua News Agency said Monday in a long report detailing the country's efforts.

The 2,000-word article, in both English and Chinese, was based on an interview with an unidentified senior official at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The Chinese version was printed in major newspapers, including the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

The official did not indicate whether China would veto the U.S.- and British-backed resolution in the U.N. Security Council authorizing war.

But citing an earlier statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, he said: "Most members of the international community, including China, believe it is a priority ... to continue arms inspection in Iraq to find out the truth, rather than working on a new U.N. resolution."

China, one of five veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council, says it opposes the U.S.-backed resolution, but the United States hopes it can persuade Beijing to at least abstain in a vote.

The report published Monday was an unusually lengthy manifesto for a government whose public comment about Iraq has been restricted to a few carefully chosen, oft-repeated sentences.

China has long been trying to strengthen its role as an influential and respected nation that can play a major part in resolving global problems. Part of its efforts include an appearance of opening up to show the world its capabilities.

"China has made long-term, unswerving efforts to seek peaceful solution of the Iraq issue," the official said. "Its role in resolving the issue is obvious to people around the world."

In the Xinhua interview, the official reiterated Beijing's insistence on continued weapons inspections in Iraq.

"China has been making the utmost effort to avoid war," the official said. "War is no good for everybody."

Those efforts include continued consultations with the United Nations as well as the United States, Russia, France and Germany, said the official, who also detailed phone calls and visits between the Chinese leadership and officials of those countries since January.

When asked about China's opinions on options presented by various countries to solve the crisis, the official said it supported a plan being pushed by France and Russia — also permanent Security Council members — along with Germany to strengthen weapons inspections and continue them for at least four more months.

"The methods for peaceful solution of the Iraq issue have not been exhausted," the official said. "As long as the slimmest hope of political resolution exists, a 100 percent effort should be exerted to realize it."

The official also urged Baghdad to step up efforts to comply with inspections. "The Iraqi side should be more active and unconditional in its all-round cooperation with the United Nations," the official said.