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Beijing ups opposition to Iraq war

By CNN Senior China Analyst, Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Zhu's final speech emphasized China's opposition to what it sees as U.S. unilateralism

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Out-going Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has put Washington on notice over China's opposition to military action against Iraq.

In veiled comments Zhu told the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing Wednesday that China was "opposed to all forms of hegemonism and power politics."

But, he said, despite a range of crises on the international scene, "world multi-polarization" was making headway.

"The Chinese people are ready to join the people of all other countries in the lofty cause of promoting world peace and development," Zhu said.

The premier's Government Work Report, which focused largely on the domestic economy, made no direct reference to diplomatic flashpoints such as Iraq and North Korea.

However, Western diplomatic sources in the capital said Zhu's criticism of "hegemonism" and his support of "multi-polarity" was a reflection of Beijing's disapproval of what it sees as the "unilateralist" tendencies of U.S. President George W. Bush.

The sources said that for the past month advisers to the Communist party leadership had pointed out that Washington's anti-Iraq campaign was part of a larger effort to control the world supply of petroleum.

Army budget boost

These advisers also warned that after subjugating Iraq, Washington could target other countries with alien cultures and institutions such as North Korea and China.

In his talk to NPC deputies, Zhu emphasized that "we will unswervingly pursue an independent foreign policy of peace."

"China will continue to consolidate and strengthen its solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries and support them in their efforts to defend their legitimate rights and interests," the premier said.

Diplomatic analysts say more hints about Beijing's policy on Iraq and other global flashpoints will be available when Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng presents the budget report to the NPC on Thursday.

It is expected that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will get a budget boost of at least 17.6 percent, which was the level awarded the armed forces last year.

The analysts say in internal discussions, top party and PLA leaders agree that PLA capacities must be beefed up to enable the country to deal with diplomatic and even military challenges, including those engendered by Washington.

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