BEIJING (Reuters) - China responded coolly on Wednesday to a French draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council to control Syria's chemical weapons, saying any decisions must be based on consensus and promote a peaceful resolution.
An initial Security Council resolution, drafted by France, would demand that Syria make a complete declaration of its chemical weapons programme within 15 days and immediately open all related sites to U.N. inspectors or face possible punitive measures.
The French draft resolution, seen by Reuters, adds that the Security Council would intend "in the event of non-compliance by the Syrian authorities with the provisions of this resolution ... to adopt further necessary measures under Chapter VII" of the U.N. Charter.
Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter covers the 15-nation Security Council's power to take steps ranging from sanctions to military interventions. It is the reference to Chapter 7, U.N. diplomats say, that has made Russia reluctant to support the initial French draft.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei would not say explicitly whether Beijing would back or oppose the French proposal, but implied some reservations.
"China supports the U.N. Security Council in playing an important role on issues of world peace and security and is willing to remain in touch with all sides on the next steps by the security council," he told a daily news briefing.
"We also believe that action by the Security Council must be based on consensus reached after full discussions by all sides, should help ameliorate the present tension in Syria, be helpful to maintaining peace and stability in Syria and the region and be helpful to a political resolution."
Russia and China have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hong repeated China's opposition to any unilateral military action on Syria, and said Russia's original proposal for Syria to give up its chemical weapons had created an "important opportunity" for a political resolution.
"We hope that all sides can seize this opportunity and proactively put effort into resolving the Syrian issue via political and diplomatic means," he said.
Hong said China welcomed Syria's commitment to the Russian initiative. "This is an important stance to take," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday it was too early to tell if Russia's initiative would succeed and he vowed to keep military forces at the ready to strike if diplomacy failed.
Obama has argued that Assad, fighting to continue his family's four-decade rule, must be punished for what Washington says was a poison gas attack on rebel areas that killed more than 1,400 people on August 21.
China has called for a full and impartial investigation by U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria, and warned against pre-judging the results, though it has also said that whoever uses chemical weapons had to be held accountable.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel