BEIJING – China's foreign minister, hurrying to the United Nations on Friday for a crucial Security Council meeting, said his government's position against military action in Iraq is unchanged -- and that "the opposition to war is prevailing."
Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan also called on Iraq not only to cooperate, but to do so more willingly.
"The majority of countries in the world stand for a political solution, and the opposition to war is prevailing," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Tang as saying.
It said Tang made the comments to Chinese reporters upon arrival in New York for a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday. It was Tang's third trip to New York in four weeks for Security Council meetings; last time, he spoke at length to the council, prescribing caution and saying inspections should go on.
Tang also said the international community should "urge Iraq for substantive cooperation in a more proactive manner."
Tang also reiterated support for a statement issued this week by France, Russia and Germany to block passage of any U.N. resolution authorizing force against Baghdad.
But, as in a news conference in Beijing on Thursday, Tang stopped short of saying that China itself would actively block that resolution. China is a permanent Security Council member and thus wields veto power, but Tang has refused to say whether China would use it.
Tang's comments are nothing new, though they appear to reflect a heightened urgency as possible U.S. military action against Iraq nears.
The Chinese government, which usually needs to be prodded for comment on major international affairs, has been issuing daily reiterations of its position in recent days -- and has been more vocal since opposition in Europe to U.S. action began growing.
Tang, in his news conference on the sidelines of China's legislature Thursday, actually cited antiwar sentiment abroad as the "best evidence" that war wouldn't help the world.
"We have to continue the inspections until we get to the bottom of this," Tang said Thursday.
His comments were amplified by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who spoke on the phone Thursday night with French President Jacques Chirac.
"The door of peace should not be closed," Jiang told Chirac.
Hours later, U.S. President George W. Bush said once again that time had run out for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Of military action against Iraq, Bush said, "We really don't need anybody's permission."