China promises to make new pledges of aid and debt reduction to Africa during the summit

China has promised to make new pledges of aid and debt reduction to Africa during the African -China summit taking place in Beijing. "The Beijing Declaration will aim to establish a new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa based on equality, mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges,"China's state press says. 

 The biggest diplomatic gathering ever hosted by China got under way Friday as leaders from more than 40 African nations began meeting here for three days of talks aimed at deepening trade and political ties.

   China has invited the leaders from 48 of Africa's 53 nations -- with the other five countries which recognize rival Taiwan also encouraged to send representatives -- in what the Chinese have hailed as an historic event.

   Trade between China and Africa is expected to exceed 50 billion dollars this year, a near tenfold increase since 1995, and one of the main themes of the China-Africa Forum is ensuring that number continues to grow.

   More than 2,500 business deals will be under discussion at the official two-day summit beginning on Saturday, Chinese vice commerce minister Wei Jianguo said in the lead-up to the event, without giving specifics.

   China's need to source more natural resources from Africa -- including oil, iron ore, timber, cotton and minerals -- has attracted the most interest from the Western world, which is watching the deepening ties with some nervousness.

   But comments by participants about a statement to be released on Sunday after the summit emphasized that China and Africa are intent on building up their relationships in a wide range of spheres aside from trade.

South African President Thabo Mbeki (2L) inspects a guard-of-honour on his arrival at the Beijing Capital International airport, in Beijing 03 November 2006.

   "The Beijing Declaration will aim to establish a new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa based on equality, mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges," an envoy from summit co-chair Ethiopia was quoted in China's state press as saying.

   China has also promised to make new pledges of aid and debt reduction to Africa during the summit.

   Banners proclaiming Sino-African "friendship, cooperation, development and peace" have been pasted on seemingly every major street in downtown Beijing in recent weeks.

   And to ease the city's notorious traffic jams, more than 750,000 cars have been ordered off the roads during the summit.

   African leaders were also taken on a tour of some of the venues being built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including the National Stadium known as the "bird's nest" because of its mesh of interlocking steel beams.

   Perhaps the most controversial element of the summit will be the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and his counterpart from Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, both of whom have been accused of gross human rights violations.

   At a press conference on Friday, Beshir thanked China for helping to stop a 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping force from entering Sudan's violence-wracked Darfur region, which he said would have led to an Iraq-style debacle.

   "We do appreciate the support that China has given Sudan in the UN Security Council," said Beshir, who had a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday.

   China, which justifies its close relationship with Beshir and Mugabe by referring to its long-held policy of "non-interference" in any nation's internal affairs, has made no apologies for inviting them.

   "Our principle when handling our relations with other countries is to never try to impose our social system, development mode, values and ideology upon other countries," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

Source :   AFP

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