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Hu, Russian leaders vow closer ties

CHINESE President Hu Jintao met with Russia's president and prime minister yesterday, and the leaders hailed the rapidly growing trade and investment between the two countries as symbols of a closer relationship that also spotlighted the importance of emerging markets in the world economy.

The two countries have signed energy deals worth a record US$100 billion this year, as China overtook Germany and the Netherlands to become Russia's biggest trading partner in the first four months of 2009.

"Deeper, practical cooperation has an especially important significance in overcoming the difficulties that face our countries," Hu said after wide-ranging talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.

In a joint statement, the two leaders called for a greater role for emerging economies on the world financial stage and a bigger use of national currencies in bilateral trade.

"It is move forward the work on the creation of favorable conditions for widening the sphere of settlement in rubles and yuan," the statement said, also calling for more active financing of trade deals by Russian and Chinese banks.

Although China has not echoed Russia's repeated calls for less world reliance on the dollar, the plan for more bilateral trade in national currencies could weigh on the greenback.

China and Russia, holders of the world's first- and third-biggest reserves respectively, are playing a growing role on the global stage as developed economies are hit by the financial crisis.

Nine of the statement's 14 pages focused on economic issues.

Medvedev valued a spring deal for Russia to supply China with oil for 20 years at a record US$100 billion, while Russian oil companies get US$25 billion in loans

"This is the biggest deal in the world economy... That (US$100 billion) is the most careful, cautious valuation of the effectiveness of this contract. We will work on the effect for our country being much bigger," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

China and Russia also signed memorandums for cooperation on coal, which Sechin said could include working together to build power stations, and on natural gas.

During a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on a porch at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow, Hu said that China sees Russia as a key partner, and he stressed the need for close interaction between the two.

"In a time of deep and complex changes, it seems even more important to foster our practical cooperation," Hu said.

Hu invited Putin to visit Beijing in October. The two leaders know each other well, having met several times when Putin was president of Russia from 2000 to 2008.

Medvedev, meanwhile, has agreed to visit China in 2010.

Hu flew to Moscow late Tuesday after two days in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, where Medvedev hosted summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - which links Russia and China with four Central Asian nations - and the BRIC group of emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China.



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