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China, Russia Make Contacts With Libyan Rebels

A smoke plume rises over Tripoli early on June 7, which correspondents say appeared to be in the vicinity of Muammar Qaddafi's residential compound.
China says Libya's foreign minister is in China to discuss the need for a political solution to the Libyan crisis.

Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi's visit comes after China announced that its diplomats had visited the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and held talks with the rebel National Transitional Council.

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy to Africa has arrived in Benghazi for talks with the rebels.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the diplomats, based at the Chinese Embassy in neighboring Egypt, visited the eastern Libyan city to try to "understand the local humanitarian situation and the state of Chinese-funded firms."

It said the diplomats met leaders of the rebel council, but gave no further details.

The visit marks the second time that China has made contact with the Libyan opposition, following a meeting recently between the Chinese ambassador to Qatar and Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the rebels' political leader.

Earlier, a spokeswoman said Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov would also meet with Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council.

China and Russia were among the countries that abstained from the UN Security Council vote in March that authorized NATO-led air strikes to stop Muammar Qaddafi's forces from attacking civilians.

Both countries have since expressed concern at the expansion of the campaign and urged a political solution.

In other news, powerful explosions have reportedly rocked the center of Tripoli, with correspondents saying the blasts appeared to be in the vicinity of Qaddafi's residential compound.

There were no further immediate details on the possible targets of the air strikes.

The Libyan capital has come under increased attack by NATO bombers in recent days, and the compound where Qaddafi has his residence has been hit several times.

compiled from agency reports