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Libyan rebel leader arrives in China to meet with Chinese officials

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Beijing is the latest world capital visited by rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril
  • He will meet with Chinese officials during his two-day visit
  • Jibril says China purchased a $160 million shipment of oil in May from the rebels

Beijing (CNN) -- Libyan rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril arrived in Beijing Tuesday for meetings with Chinese officials as opposition forces battle troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi back home, state media reported.

Jibril, the chairman of the Executive Board of the opposition Transitional National Council, will be in China for two days, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

"China's major task is to promote peace and encourage talks," Hong said. "China has followed closely the development of the situation in Libya, and calls for the political resolution of the Libyan crisis."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the rebels "an important political power of Libya."

The acknowledgement comes a month after Jibril told CNN that China bolstered the opposition movement's stature by purchasing a shipment of oil from the opposition group for $160 million.

"We have maintained contacts with the both sides of Libya, and urge them to take actions that are conducive to the interest of the people of the country," Hong said. "We believe that the future of Libya should be determined by the Libyan people themselves, and China will respect the independent choice of the Libyan people."

In May, Jibril met with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Francois Fillon in Paris. France has been the strongest backer for the Libyan rebels and the NATO air campaign.

Also in May, Jibril tried to secure formal recognition for the interim council from the White House, but fell short of getting one.

However, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said at the time that the United States views the group "as a legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people."

CNN's Helena Hong contributed to this report