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China's Xi tells Obama Syria crisis can't be resolved with military strike

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands as he meets with China's President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg September 6, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands as he meets with China's President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg September 6, 2013

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping told his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on Friday that the crisis in Syria should not be resolved through a military strike and urged him to consider a political solution, state news agency Xinhua said.

Xi's are the highest-level comments from China since an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria. They follow remarks by a foreign ministry spokesman, who urged a role for the U.N. Security Council in resolving the crisis after the United States said it had given up trying to work with the council on Syria.

"A political solution is the only right way out for the Syrian crisis, and a military strike cannot solve the problem from the root," Xinhua quoted Xi as telling Obama on the sidelines of a G20 summit in St. Petersburg in Russia.

"We expect certain countries to have a second thought before action."

China has called for a full and impartial investigation by U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria into the attack, and has warned against pre-judging the results. It has also said that whoever used chemical weapons had to be held accountable.

Xi stressed to Obama China's position on adhering to the two principles of "maintaining the basic norms of international law and relations" and the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons, according to remarks broadcast by state television.

He urged the international community to work toward a meeting on Syria at a second conference in Geneva, with the aim of discussing an open political transition in Syria.

Russia and China have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But China has also been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has said a transitional government should be formed.

Remarks on Thursday by Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, left no doubt that Washington would not seek U.N. approval for a military strike on Syria in response to the chemical attack.

Asked about those comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Security Council needed to be used.

"China supports the important role that the U.N. Security Council plays in properly resolving the Syria issue," Hong told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

"We hope relevant parties can continue communications and coordination and hold deep consultations so as to resolve the relevant issue in a peaceful way," he added.

Separately, Xi urged Obama to adopt an "objective and fair attitude" in matters related to the Asia-Pacific region, where there are disputes over maritime rights and islands.

Xi also reiterated China's long-held view on resumption of six-party talks on the Korean peninsula.

(Additional reporting by Wang Lan; and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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