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Middle East

China urges end to Syrian violence


A Chinese envoy visiting Damascus has called on all sides in Syria to stop the violence.

Vice-foreign minister Zhai Jun was in the Syrian capital for a meeting with president Bashar Assad, and said he is hopeful the authorities will restore stability soon.

He said China was "extremely concerned" about the escalation of the crisis in Syria.

China along with Russia has refused to condemn Syria over the crackdown on an uprising now in its 11th month, which according to the UN killed more than 5,400 people last year alone.

China this week voted against a UN General Assembly resolution condemning human rights violations in Syria.

The vote followed China's recent veto of a similar resolution in the UN Security Council.

"China has no selfish interests," Mr Jun said, defending the Security Council veto. He added that China's "objective and just" position on Syria stemmed from its basic interest in the welfare of the Syrian people.

Mr Jun urged Syrians to participate in a planned referendum on the country's new draft constitution that would create a multi-party system in Syria, which has been ruled by the Assad family for 40 years.

Assad's call for a referendum, set for February 26, has raised the question of how a nationwide vote could be held at a time when many areas see daily battles betweenSyrian troops and rebel soldiers. The opposition has opposed the referendum.

Mr Jun said the referendum "would be in the interest of the Syrian people".

Only in light of stability could Syria conduct comprehensive political reforms, he added.