China, UN resolution on Syria - 4.2.12 - AP
Chinese Ambassador to the UN Li Baodong sitting with his hands down as Security Council members vote on resolution to back an Arab League call for Syria's Assad to step down, Feb. 4, 2012. Photo by AP
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China's top newspaper on Monday defended Beijing's rejection of a UN resolution pressing Syria's President Bashar Assad to abandon power, saying Western campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq showed the error of forced regime change.

The commentary in the People's Daily, the top newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, was Beijing's clearest defense of its decision to join Moscow at the weekend in vetoing a draft United Nations resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to quit after months of bloodshed.

The commentary suggested that Chinese distrust of Western intervention lay behind the veto, which was described by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a "travesty".

"The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and numbers of civilian casualties keep rising. Vetoing the draft Security Council resolution does not mean we are giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs continue," said the commentary in the paper, which echoes government thinking.

China, not its Western critics, was acting "responsibly" for the sake of the Syrian people, it said. The author used the pen name "Zhong Sheng", which can mean "voice of China" and is often used to give Beijing's position on foreign policy.

"Currently, the situation in Syria is extremely complex. Simplistically supporting one side and suppressing the other might seem a helpful way of turning things around, but in fact it would be sowing fresh seeds of disaster," said the paper.

China's siding with Russia over Syria could add to irritants with the United States. Vice President Xi Jinping is due to visit there next week, burnishing his credentials as the Communist Party's likely next top leader.

Beijing and Washington have also sparred over Iran, which faces tightened Western sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.

The commentary also laid bare broader Chinese concerns about Western-backed intervention in the Arab world and beyond.

China is one of the five permanent UN Security Council members that hold the power to veto resolutions.

In March, China abstained from a Council vote that authorized Western military intervention in Libya. That resolution became the basis for a NATO air campaign that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi, despite misgivings from Beijing and Moscow about the expanded campaign, which they said went beyond the resolution.

"Libya offers a negative case study. NATO abused the Security Council resolution about establishing a no-fly zone, and directly provided firepower assistance to one side in the
Libyan war," said the People's Daily Commentary.

It also cited Iraq and Afghanistan in its case against the Syria resolution.

"The calamities of Iraq and Afghanistan should be ample to wipe clear the world's eyes. Forceful prevention of a humanitarian disaster sounds filled with a sense of justice and responsibility," said the paper.

"But are not the unstoppable attacks and explosions over a decade after regime change a humanitarian disaster?" it said.