Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing admitted he had a face only a mother could love, during surprisingly frank and personal discussions in an internet chat room yesterday. It was the first time a senior government minister had gone online for an interactive chat, and Mr Li was bombarded with 2,000 queries from curious citizens. Most people wanted to know about the mainland's foreign policy - asking about China's role in the reconstruction of Iraq, for example - but the discussion had its lighter moments as well. 'People are not too keen about your looks. What do you say?' one person asked. An unfazed Mr Li replied: 'My mother would not agree with this view. She is an ordinary woman in a village in Shandong province who once made shoes for the communist army. She is quite proud of the way I look.' Others rushed to Mr Li's defence, saying what he lacked in good looks, he made up for with an inner beauty. 'Although some people have not said anything flattering about your looks, to us women you are a very special and charming man,' said another participant in the chat room. 'In the arena of foreign policy you have made us see the beauty of the Chinese man.' He said he was flattered by the comments, but 'in my work I seldom pay attention to my looks'. Mr Li, who polished his public relations skills as the Foreign Ministry's spokesman in the late 1980s, answered 50 questions. He did not shy away from revealing personal information about himself, a rarity among senior officials, who tend to keep their lives private. Mr Li talked about working on a farm and his time as a cook in the army. He said the experiences had helped him build a personal rapport with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. 'I quite like him as a colleague. He came from a humble background [as the son of] an immigrant from Jamaica. Above all, we [both] want to see improvement in Sino-American relations.' Mr Li said he and Mr Powell call each other at home. Due to the time difference between Beijing and Washington, they often wake each other at night. One night a call from Beijing not only woke Mr Powell but also his dogs, whose barking drowned out the conversation until someone shut the door, he said. Known as an amateur poet, Mr Li said he liked to scribble a few lines while on the plane on his globe-trotting missions and that some of the poems were published in his small home-town newspaper. 'My poems are an inner dialogue,' he said. Quoting an American proverb, Mr Li said an angel can soar because he thinks he is light.