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China: We back Syria peace plans

China has said it supports the Arab League's proposals for ending the violence in Syria, in a striking show of support just two weeks after Beijing vetoed a United Nations resolution backing the plans.

The seemingly contradictory stances on the Arab League's proposals appear to reflect Beijing's desire for mediation, but aversion to UN involvement that could lead to authorising force, as happened with Libya.

China conveyed its support for the league's proposals in a statement posted on its Foreign Ministry's website. That followed a meeting earlier in Damascus between Chinese vice foreign minister Zhai Jun and Syrian president Bashar Assad.

The statement quoted Mr Zhai as telling Assad that China was willing to work with the Syrian government and opposition, the Arab League and Arab countries to find a solution.

"China supports all the mediation efforts by the Arab League to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis and calls upon relevant parties to increase communication and negotiations to find a peaceful and appropriate solution to the Syrian crisis within the framework of the Arab League and on the basis of the Arab League's relevant political solution proposals," Mr Zhai was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, a ruling party newspaper said China courageously defied the West when it opposed a non-binding resolution in the UN General Assembly condemning human rights abuses in Syria.

"The country's courage to truly express itself and to calmly stand its ground is worthy of merit," the Global Times newspaper said. "It is wrong to blindly come down on the side of the West in each vote." It is published by the Communist Party's flagship People's Daily newspaper.

China, which carried out a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, has refused to condemn Syria over the violence.

Beijing's authoritarian leaders generally oppose any moves that could lead to humanitarian interventions, such as last year's Nato air campaign in Libya, and have themselves used overwhelming force against anti-government protests in Tibet and the traditionally Muslim north-western region of Xinjiang.

Syria has seen one of the bloodiest crackdowns in the Arab uprisings that began a year ago. The UN says more than 5,400 people were killed in Syria last year and the number has risen daily. In addition, 25,000 people are estimated to have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and more than 70,000 are internally displaced.

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