Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Russia, China take shots at US over Iraq

TEAMING UPA 13-page joint declaration that contained little of substance criticized America's role in the Middle Eastern country and its stance on North Korea ·

AFP , MOSCOW

Russia and China swiped at the US over its handling of Iraq and North Korea on Tuesday as new Chinese leader Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) reaffirmed traditional ties with Moscow by making his first visit abroad here.

In a bond-building meeting with Hu, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Chinese counterpart that relations between the two giant neighbors were reaching new heights.

Although no grand diplomatic or economic achievements were reached in the talks, Hu said his country was working hard to build a lasting alliance with Russia.

"The new leadership [in China] attaches great importance to the development of Russian-Chinese relations. We believe we should make this a priority," Hu told a press conference after the Kremlin talks.

Russia was his first foreign destination since his election as Chinese president in March, a visit which highlights the importance Moscow and Beijing attach to their sometimes uneasy partnership.

The two countries stressed their common ground in a 13-page joint declaration which contained no concrete initiatives.

Russia and China, both critics of the US-led war on Iraq, urged the world to focus on the instability and humanitarian situation in the country.

"Russia and China believe that it is essential in the near future to take measures to restore internal stability in Iraq. The most important task is the resolution of the humanitarian situation in this country," the statement said.

They also said that the use of force to resolve Washington's nuclear standoff with North Korea would be "unacceptable."

In a clear reference to the US, the statement said that foreign states should respect North Korea's security worries and economic needs, while adding that Pyongyang must drop its nuclear ambitions.

The two leaders indirectly criticized US dominance, saying they favoured a "multipolar, fair and democratic world based on international rights."

The Putin-Hu summit came less than a week before the Russian leader meets US President George W. Bush in Saint Petersburg -- their first meeting since the Iraq war.

Russia's relationship with the US has cooled because of their dispute over Iraq but observers say the pro-Western shift under Putin since the Sept. 11 attacks on the US has not reversed.

Despite the show of unity, Russia is primarily interested in reaping economic dividends from China's booming economy, especially in the undeveloped Russian far eastern regions. China is also a major buyer of Russian weapons.

Putin said the two countries could increase their bilateral trade to US$20 billion within four or five years. Trade between the two countries jumped from US$10 billion 8.4 billion euros in 2001 to US$12 billion last year.

The Russian leader also voiced support for projects such as the construction of a 2,400km oil pipeline from eastern Siberia to the Chinese city of Daqing, bringing Russian crude to energy-hungry China.

"We are looking at the possibility of building oil and gas pipelines from Russia to China. We intend to promote the realization of these projects," he said.

Hu, 60, accompanied by a delegation including Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Minister of Commerce Lu Fuyuan, landed in Moscow on Monday and will spend a week in Russia.

Putin and Hu previously met on just two occasions, in September 2001 in Moscow and in December last year in Beijing, when the Russian president met Hu after the latter's appointment as Chinese Communist party chief.

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