Chinese officials say aides to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi met with Chinese arms manufacturers in July seeking to buy sophisticated weapons for use against advancing rebel forces.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Monday the meetings took place without the knowledge of the Chinese government and that no weapons were ever sold to the Libyans.
The meetings were first disclosed last week by a Canadian newspaper whose reporter found documents describing the talks in a Libyan trash pile. The documents showed the companies offered to sell the Libyans at least $200 million of weapons including rocket launchers, antitank missiles and portable surface-to-air missiles.
The companies suggested the arms could be delivered through Algeria or South Africa which, like China, were slow to end support for the longtime leader.
Any such arms sales would be a violation of United Nations sanctions. The foreign ministry spokeswoman said China strictly adhered to the U.N. ban on arms sales to the Gadhafi government.
Even so, the admission will complicate relations between Libya's new provisional government and China, which had billions of dollars invested in Libya's oil sector before the anti-Gadhafi revolt began. It is not clear whether the provisional government will honor Gadhafi-era contracts, but NTC officials have hinted they will favor companies from countries that supported their revolt.
The Globe and Mail says its reporter found the documents in a curbside trash pile in a neighborhood populated by Gadhafi loyalists.
Both the Globe and the New York Times quote members of Libya's National Transitional Council saying they believe the documents are authentic. An NTC spokesman said he believed some weapons described in the documents were used against rebel forces in the final weeks of their drive toward Tripoli.
The Globe said the documents bore the letterhead of the government's arms-procuring Supply Authority, and that the letterhead matched stationery obtained in the authority's offices.