|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei held a press conference on January 17, 2013.(Photo/ Foreign Ministry of China)|
BEIJING, Jan. 17 (People's Daily Online) -- China has asked the Malian government to protect Chinese nationals living in the country, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
"The Chinese government pays great attention to the safety and legitimate rights of Chinese citizens overseas," spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.
Hong said Chinese embassies in Mali and neighboring Algeria will keep close contact with concerned personnel, enterprises and other organizations, as well as provide them with all necessary consular assistance and protection.
Recent media reports have stated that criminals believed to be Islamic militants kidnapped about 41 foreign nationals in southeast Algeria on Wednesday, demanding that France end its military operations in Mali.
France launched its first ground assault against Islamist fighters in Mali on Wednesday, six days after initiating airstrikes.
Hong said China has asked the Malian government to take effective measures to protect Chinese organizations and personnel in the two countries.
Regarding China's attitude regarding the deployment of forces in Mali, Hong said China supports the Malian government's efforts to safeguard its territorial integrity and suggests that all parties concerned should implement related resolutions approved by the UN Security Council.
Hong said China is closely monitoring the situation in Mali and has recognized that related countries and regional organizations have dispatched ground forces at the request of the Malian government.
China looks forward to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2085, which authorizes the deployment of an Africa-led international task force to help restore Mali's stability, he said.
"We also hope that the incident in Algeria can be appropriately addressed as soon as possible," he added.
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