New Chinese premier: world must try for peace in Iraq

China’s new premier today called for “every effort” to be made to avoid war in Iraq and said the United Nations weapons inspections must continue.

China’s new premier today called for “every effort” to be made to avoid war in Iraq and said the United Nations weapons inspections must continue.

But Wen Jiabao admitted that the situation was looking dire.

“The arrow has already been placed on the bow,” he said, speaking shortly after President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to go into exile or face a US-led invasion.

“As long as there is one glimmer of hope we will not give up our efforts for a peaceful settlement,” Wen said, adding that Iraq must comply immediately with the weapons inspections and disarm.

On his second full day as China’s prime minister, Wen reiterated Beijing’s position that any action against Iraq should be done through the UN.

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It has consistently opposed military action in Iraq.

Earlier, China’s new foreign minister made a last ditch effort to avert war.

Li Zhaoxing made a flurry of phone calls to US, British and Russian officials, the government said.

Li, appointed yesterday, spoke to US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw overnight, asking them to be “prudent in deciding whether or not to start a war,” the official Xinhua News Agency said.

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