Zardari wins economic deals in China (Lead)

October 15th, 2008 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Benazir BhuttoBeijing, Oct 15 (DPA) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday as the two nations signed economic cooperation agreements covering satellites, trade, mining, agriculture and other sectors.State media quoted Hu as saying that Zardari’s family were “all old friends of the Chinese people” and praising Zardari’s late wife, Benazir Bhutto, and her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for their “outstanding contributions to the opening and development of China-Pakistan relations”.

Zardari’s choice of China as his first overseas visit since taking office showed the importance he attached to ties with China, Hu said.

“Committing myself to raising further the China-Pakistan friendly relationship is a mission given to me by history,” the semi-official China News Service quoted Zardari as telling Hu.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed Hu greeting Zardari with a guard of honour in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before their talks at the nearby Great Hall of the People.

The two leaders later attended the signing of agreements covering areas including economic cooperation, trade, broadcast and communications satellites, the environment, mining, agriculture and technology, the broadcaster said without giving details of the deals.

Zaradari thanked Hu for China’s economic assistance and said Pakistan wanted to expand cooperation in trade and infrastructure, it said.

The Financial Times reported earlier that Zardari was expected to seek a soft loan of $500 million to $1.5 billion from the Chinese government to avoid a looming default on external debts.

Some media reports said Pakistan, which celebrates China as its “all-weather friend”, was likely to seek a civil nuclear deal with the communist state on the pattern of a recent arrangement between the US and Pakistan’s archrival India.

China has already helped Pakistan build a 300-megawatt nuclear power plant while work on a similar facility is under progress.

On Tuesday, shortly before Zardari arrived, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China planned to continue its cooperation with Pakistan on nuclear energy “on the basis of equality and mutual benefit”.

Zardari’s four-day visit comes as relations between Washington and Islamabad, two key allies in the international fight against terrorism, have been strained due to increasing US drone attacks on suspected militant hideouts inside Pakistan near its Afghan border.

According to official figures, annual trade between the two countries has already surpassed $7 billion, and the two sides are aiming to increase that to $15 billion by 2011.

China is also the biggest weapons supplier to Pakistan and the two countries have jointly developed the JF-17 Thunder jet fighter and K-8 jet trainer aircraft.

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