China says to tighten control over weapons dealers

September 6, 2011 - 4:45 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China said Tuesday it will strengthen control over arms exports after revelations of a meeting in July between Chinese weapons makers and representatives of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeated China's stance that no contracts were signed and no arms were delivered, although the meetings apparently did result in invoices being issued that listed prices for weapons from pistols to rocket launchers. Libya is under a global arms embargo.

"China will continue to strictly implement the U.N. resolution and will further strengthen management over military exports," Jiang said.

China says the meetings were the acts of individuals at the Chinese companies and took place behind the government's back. Jiang indicated an investigation could follow.

"Competent authorities for military trade will handle the matter in a serious manner," she said.

The Libyan opposition, which has ousted Gadhafi from power, says there is evidence that Chinese companies shipped weapons through Algeria to Gadhafi's forces after the outbreak of the uprising in violation of the U.N. embargo.

There is no indication that the Chinese government played a role in the contacts between the weapons makers and Gadhafi's representatives.

Despite that, the Libyan rebels say the arms issue and China's relative lack of support for their cause could provide obstacles to future ties. Chinese companies were major investors in Libyan infrastructure prior to the outbreak of the conflict in mid-February and Beijing retains substantial influence as one of five permanent veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council.

While it belatedly opened up contacts with the opposition, Beijing has yet to recognize the National Transitional Council as Libya's legitimate government. Asked when that would happen, Jiang said only, "when the time is right."