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Hu vows to increase aid, cancel debts for Africa
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Chinese President Hu JintaoThursday vowed to increase aid to African countries, cancel part of their debts, and expand trade with and investment in these countries.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) meets with Malian President Amadou Toumany Toure in Bamako, Mali, on Feb. 12, 2009. [Xinhua]

Hu made the statement while meeting with his Malian counterpart Amadou Toumany Toure.

Hu, making his first visit to this western African nation, was accorded a 21-gun salute in a welcome ceremony before the two presidents started talks.

This is Hu's second African tour since the landmark China-Africa summit in 2006 when Hu announced eight measures to promote ties with Africa, including massive tariff cuts and debt exemptions for scores of African countries, and doubling aid to Africa over a three-year period.

In the past two years, China has increased aid to African countries, eliminated tariff for goods from some least developed African nations, and cancelled parts of the debts owed by African countries, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said days ahead of Hu's visit.

Trade between China and African countries increased to 106.8 billion U.S. dollars last year from just under 40 billion dollars in 2005, according to the Chinese commerce ministry.

Hu said that as the world financial crisis has posed severe challenges, it is of greater significance to step up China-Africa solidarity and cooperation.

"China is paying much attention to African countries' difficulties and concerns as the global financial crisis has begun to take a toll on Africa," Hu said.

"We would like to increase communication and exchanges with Mali and other African countries so that together we will tide over the crisis," Hu said.

On China-Mali ties, Hu said the two countries will usher in a new era of development as next year marks the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.

Hu hailed the past 49 years of friendship as a "paradigm of south-south cooperation" and described the two nations as "good friends, partners and brothers."

To boost bilateral relations, Hu proposed that both nations keep high-level visits and increase exchanges between their governments, parliaments, militaries and non-governmental organizations.

On economic ties, Hu proposed that both sides step up coordination and carry out government-to-government cooperative programs.

Furthermore, the Chinese government would like to encourage and support Chinese businesses with strong capacities to invest in Mali, he said.

Hu called for the two countries to work more closely in telecommunications, agriculture, infrastructure construction among others.

He also suggested setting up a bilateral trade and technology steering committee so as to plan and coordinate cooperative programs.

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