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China, British Leaders to Exchange Visits

Top-ranking leaders of China and Britain are expected to exchange visits this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said in Beijing Friday after his talks with visiting British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw.

Li said the foreign ministries of both nations have agreed to make preparations for the upcoming high-level events, "to strengthen dialogue and communication and to deepen their cooperation in handling international affairs."

Both sides agreed to "enhance dialogue and consultation on issues pertaining to Sino-European relations and to strive to raise China-Europe ties to a higher height," he said.

At a joint press conference, Li said significant progress has been scored in Sino-UK relations since Premier Wen Jiabao visited Britain in May last year.

"China and Britain have agreed to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership," Li said. "This decision did not come accidentally. It's beneficial to the long-term interests of both countries and world peace and stability."

Calling 2005 "a crucial year to the development of Sino-UK ties," Li acknowledged that China and Britain will take up the presidency of the Group 20 and Group 8 separately this year while Britain will also take up the presidency of the European Union in the latter half of the year.

"China is ready to work together with Britain to implement the agreement both countries' leaders have reached last year and bring more progress to the Sino-UK ties," he said.

Straw said he fully agreed with the proposals of Li Zhaoxing in boosting the two countries' cooperation. He also expressed sympathy and cordial regards to Chinese victims amidst the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and his appreciation to the contributions and generosity of the Chinese government and Chinese people in helping out people of tsunami-ravaged countries.

Britain was very proud to be the largest European investor in China and a major country Chinese students would like to go for higher education, Straw said.

Before the press conference, Straw signed an agreement with He Guangwei, director general of the China National Tourism Administration, making Britain an approved tourism destination for Chinese travelers. "We welcome more Chinese to come and see our country," said the British foreign secretary.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2005)

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