China pulls its workers from Syria

Chinese minister announces bringing workers home from Syria to avoid an 11th hour rescue as in Libya.

Syrian crisis continues 370 R (photo credit: Reuters)
Syrian crisis continues 370 R
(photo credit: Reuters)
BEIJING - China is bringing workers home from Syria, its commerce minister said on Wednesday, in an apparent attempt to avoid a repeat of last year's eleventh-hour rescue of Chinese nationals from Libya when violence engulfed that country.
Only about 100 Chinese workers will be left behind to guard work camps and equipment, the minister, Chen Deming, said. He did not give figures for the total number of Chinese citizens or projects in Syria.
"The Chinese government and ministries must seriously undertake the protection of Chinese firms' production and projects overseas, and the protection of the lives of Chinese citizens overseas, especially engineering teams," Chen told reporters.
China sent an envoy to Damascus this week, even as closed-door meetings were held at the UN to discuss a US-drafted resolution urging an end to the Syrian government's increasingly lethal crackdown on a year-long revolt. China joined Russia to veto UN resolutions on Syria in October and February.
China was caught off guard last year when a civil war erupted in Libya. Nearly 36,000 of its nationals were frced to hastily leave the country. Chinese workers were involved in Libyan projects worth $17 billion, Chen said.
His remarks represent some of the most detailed comments by Beijing officials regarding Chinese interests in Libya. "The tragedy is that these projects were badly damaged during the instability, the civil war and the foreign intervention," Chen said.
"So we are negotiating with the Libyan government, we hope that the Libyan government can actually begin compensation for these projects in accordance with international norms." China was evaluating security in Libya, he said, but did not deem it safe enough for work on the projects to resume.
China's workers have been exposed to dangers when they go overseas in Sudan, Egypt, Niger and Pakistan, among other countries.
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