China calls for immediate cease-fire in Libya

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BEIJING (AP) — China called Tuesday for an immediate cease-fire in Libya where the U.S. and European nations have launched punishing airstrikes to enforce a U.N. no-fly zone.

India, too, expressed concern over the campaign, repeating a mantra of both Asian giants that the violence in the North African country was an internal affair.

All parties must “immediately cease fire and resolve issues through peaceful means,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regularly scheduled news conference, citing unconfirmed reports that the airstrikes had caused civilian deaths.

China and India were among the five countries that abstained from last week’s vote on the U.N. resolution to allow “all necessary measures” to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s assault on rebel-held towns. It was approved with the backing of the United States, France and Britain.

Beijing has been sharply critical of the airstrikes that hit Libyan air defenses and forces for a third night Monday. The Foreign Ministry registered “serious reservations” about the resolution, and on Monday the country’s most important political newspaper compared the Western airstrikes against Libya to the U.S.-led invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament Tuesday that foreign forces should not be meddling in Libyan affairs.

“Nobody, no two or three countries, can take a decision to change a particular regime in a third country,” he said.

China and India have both historically opposed foreign military interventions as part of long-standing policies of staying out of other countries’ internal affairs.

Jiang said China, one of five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, only opted not to oppose the resolution out of consideration for the support shown for the measure among Arab and African nations.

North Korea also Tuesday urged an immediate halt to the airstrikes. An unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman said they were a “wanton violation” of Libya’s sovereignty and a “hideous crime against humanity.”

The spokesman also accused the United States of wanting regime change in Libya and control of its natural resources. The comments were carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The Philippines respects the Security Council decision, presidential spokesman Abigail Valte in Manila said, while stopping short of openly supporting it due to concerns over the safety of Filipinos in Libya.

About 15,000 of the 26,000 Filipino workers in Libya have fled since the unrest started. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs is asking Libya to allow four Filipino maids who work for a Gadhafi relative to leave the country.