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China Concerned over Escalation in Iraq
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Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Tuesday that China is "highly concerned" about the turbulent situation in Iraq and the growing number of civilian casualties following the US attack on Falluja.


"The current continued upheavals and the casualties in Iraq are a cause for much concern," Zhang said at yesterday's regular press conference. "We hope that the situation there will return to tranquility as soon as possible."


US forces conducted house-to-house searches in Falluja yesterday in the second day of the assault aimed at retaking control of the Sunni Muslim-dominated city before planned elections in January.


"We hope that the general election in Iraq will be held as scheduled and that reconstruction work can progress as smoothly and as soon as possible so that the Iraqi people can lead a stable and peaceful life."


UN Ambassador Wang Guangya will attend an international conference, to be held in Egypt on November 22 to 23, to promote peace in Iraq. "He will make concerted efforts with other parties on this question in order to expand consensus on the Iraqi question to contribute to the stability of Iraq," Zhang said.


Meanwhile, government leaders are carefully following the health of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, the spokeswoman said. "Arafat is an old friend of the Chinese people. The Chinese government and leaders have extended regards to him," said Zhang.


Arafat, 75, became severely ill 10 days ago at his West Bank residence in Ramallah. He was airlifted to Paris for treatment on October 29.


Zhang also expressed grave concerns about Japanese media reports of three hypothetical scenarios of China attacking Japan. She said such hypotheses are beyond understanding since China pursues a road to peaceful development and poses no threat to anyone.


"We oppose anyone fabricating or instigating a so-called 'China threat.' The parties concerned should give up their Cold War mentality and work to promote peace and development in Asia, and the world as whole," she said.


Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei will meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to discuss cooperation.


Referring to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue Zhang said, "China is now keeping in very close contact, coordinating and cooperating with all the six parties involved. We hope that all parties can show further flexibility and sincerity and that the next round of six-party talks can be held on schedule."


During Li's Tehran visit on November 6 and 7, he stressed that the nuclear issue should be discussed and resolved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Zhang. 


She added that China is making diplomatic contacts and exchanging views on the issue with the EU, Russia and the US. The IAEA council meeting will be held on November 25 to discuss further operations in Iran.


During talks between Li and visiting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Zion Shalom, bilateral cooperation and the situation in the Middle East were discussed, Zhang said.


Shalom expressed his appreciation to China for the positive role the country has played in pushing the Middle East peace process, saying he hopes China will continue to provide support.


Zhang said China hopes both Israel and Palestine would cease conflicts and resume peace talks that benefit both sides.


Zhang also said that President Hu Jintao's visits to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Cuba from Wednesday are very important for developing trade relations.


She said over recent years, trade and economic relations between China and Latin American countries have witnessed rapid development. During Hu's visit, agreements will be signed to further enhance this cooperation.


Zhang said the government hopes Latin American countries will recognize that China has already established a socialist market economic system and that it joining the World Trade Organization means its market economy is developing. According to the latest Chinese official statistics, trade volume with Latin America reached US$26.8 billion last year.


In another development, Zhang said relevant Chinese departments are investigating the looting of overseas Chinese-owned shops in Venezuela. 


According to Venezuelan media, four shops were looted at the beginning of November. Zhang said many Chinese have contributed to the economic and social development of Venezuela and other Latin American countries. She hopes they will properly handle the incident so the interests of overseas Chinese are not damaged.


Zhang announced that State Councilor Chen Zhili will pay official goodwill visits to Sri Lanka, India and the South Korea from November 11 to 23; and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, will visit China from November 17 to 22 at the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao.


(China Daily, CRI.com November 10, 2004)

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