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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's main official newspaper Monday described U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's criticisms of Beijing's stance on Syria "super arrogant" and argued that, after the Iraq war, the United States has no right to speak for Arab people.
The People's Daily, the top newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, gave China's first public answer to Clinton's comments Friday, when she called the Chinese and Russian veto of a U.N. resolution on Syria "despicable.
China's response in the People's Daily was equally vehement.
"The United States' motive in parading as a 'protector' of the Arab peoples is not difficult to imagine. The problem is, what moral basis does it have for this patronising and egotistical super-arrogance and self-confidence?," said a commentary in the paper that cited the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"Even now, violence continues unabated in Iraq, and ordinary people enjoy no security. This alone is enough for us to draw a huge question mark over the sincerity and efficacy of U.S. policy," it said.
The spreading bloodshed in Syria, where government forces have been bombarding neighbourhoods held by opposition forces, has turned into a broader test pitting Western powers against China and Russia over how forcefully the world should intervene in civil turmoil.
Beijing and Moscow are traditionally resistant to international intervention in domestic upheavals, and Russia has close ties with the Syrian government.
"They are setting themselves not only against the Syrian people but also the entire Arab awakening," Clinton said of China and Russia, which have resisted Western and Arab calls to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
On February 5, China and Russia used their veto power as permanent members of the U.N Security Council to stymie a proposed resolution backing an Arab plan pressing Assad to step down. As well, China and Russia both refused to attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Tunis Friday, when Western and Arab nations sought to escalate pressure on Assad.
The commentary in the People's Daily repeated China's argument that its unwillingness to take sides in Syria's conflict best reflected the interests of that country's people.
"It is disturbing that as it fully enters into Syria's domestic turmoil, the United States has never seriously considered how to end this calamity quickly and at a minimal cost to the Syrian people," said the newspaper.
"While U.S. foreign policy claims the moral high ground by trumpeting 'democracy' and 'freedom', Washington is also constantly flinging epithets at Russia and China," it said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also warned the West against backing military intervention in Syria. Clinton has indicated there is no enthusiasm in Washington for war.
The People's Daily commentary was published under the pen name "Zhong Sheng," meaning "Voice of China," which is often used to give the paper's view on foreign policy issues.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has yet to respond to Clinton's criticisms and the outcome of the meeting on Syria in Tunis, where powerful Gulf Arab countries demanded more forceful intervention against Assad.
Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Paul Tait