Tue, Jan 10, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bolivia invites China to develop gas reserves

AP , BEIJING

Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales, left, meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. Morales said he was very content with the talks he held with Hu.

PHOTO: EPA

Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales has invited energy-hungry China to help develop his country's vast gas reserves after his government carries out plans to nationalize them, a Morales adviser said.

Morales met with State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇), a senior Cabinet official, on Sunday after arriving from Europe on a world tour. He met yesterday with President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and China's commerce minister.

"For the government of President Morales, hydrocarbons is a fundamental topic, in particular the industrialization of natural gas," said Carlos Villegas, an economic adviser to Morales.

"He invited the Chinese government, through its state companies, to participate," Villegas said.

Morales has alarmed Western governments with his plans to nationalize Bolivia's gas resources.

Villegas said Bolivia wants private companies to remain as partners to develop them and will renegotiate existing contracts following Morales' inauguration on Jan. 22.

Villegas said Morales wants to develop industries to turn Bolivia's gas into more profitable products such as cleaner-burning diesel instead of exporting it as a low-priced raw material.

"We have made the proposal in Spain and France, and now in China," Villegas said. "We are offering. It doesn't mean that we are relying only on China."

The left-leaning Morales, a former Indian activist, said he hoped to build ties between Bolivia's socialist movement and China's ruling Communist Party.

"I want to express my profound admiration for the transformations that you have made through the Chinese people's revolution," Morales said during a meeting with Wang Jiarui (王家瑞), head of the Chinese Communist Party's international liaison department.

Morales' visit comes amid a campaign by Beijing to develop ties with nations throughout Latin America as new sources of fuel, raw materials and new markets for its export dynamo.

China has signed deals to develop Venezuelan oil fields, and its investments in the region include a Brazilian steel mill and copper mines in Chile and Peru.

For their part, Brazil, Argentina and other nations look to China as a source of investment and markets for their own exports.

Beijing has become a regular stop for Latin American leaders traveling with large business delegations.

China and Brazil have a joint program to develop and launch scientific satellites.

The growing Chinese presence in the region has led some to question whether Beijing wants political influence. Beijing has close relations with presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, both frequent critics of Washington.

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