CEOL - China non-committal on Kosovo peacekeeping decision

BEIJING, Dec 28, 1999 -- (Reuters) China said on Tuesday a decision on whether to veto a renewal of the U.N. mandate for Kosovo peacekeepers would depend on what was happening there before the Security Council voted on extending it in June.

"China will decide its stand at the United Nations Security Council depending on what happens in Kosovo," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a news conference.

The mandate for the U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and Kosovo Forces (KFOR) is for one year ending in June.

China and Russia are permanent members of the Security Council and can veto any extension.

Other permanent members are the United States, Britain and France, whose forces took part in the NATO air war, which Beijing and Moscow vehemently opposed on the grounds that it had not been approved by the United Nations.

Beijing fears the campaign could set a precedent for Western action to resolve other problems, like Taiwan and Tibet, which China deems its own internal affairs.

The official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday that Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told his Yugoslav counterpart Zivadin Jovanovic in Beijing that the NATO bombing had complicated the Kosovo situation rather than solved it.

On Monday Prime Minister Zhu Rongji called for a settlement of the Kosovo issue on the basis of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.

Zhu was also quoted by Xinhua as telling Jovanovic that any settlement of the issue should guarantee the legitimate rights of all ethnic groups in the country.

Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of Yugoslav troops withdrawn from Kosovo last June, said on Monday they would return to Kosovo, one way or another.

His troops would protect Serbs and other non-Albanians who have been attacked since NATO deployed forces in the ethnic Albanian majority region, Lazarevic said.

He said it was possible China and Russia would veto a renewal of the U.N. mandates.

China said earlier this month it was providing financial aid for the reconstruction of Yugoslavia following the bombing, but declined to confirm the sum was $300 million, a figure provided by a Yugoslav government source

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