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Thursday, November 13, 1997 Published at 18:45 GMT

Despatches: Far East
Duncan Hewitt
From Beijing

The Yugoslav federal President, Slobodan Milosevic, has met the Chinese President Jiang Zemin on the first day of his state visit to China. It's Mr Milosevic' first trip outside the Balkans since taking up his post earlier this year. The two Presidents signed a joint declaration in which China said it would seek to promote Yugoslavia's attempts to rejoin the international community. And in a sign that economic co-operation is high on the Yugoslav President's agenda, he's accompanied by some twenty of the Republic's leading businessmen. From Beijing, Duncan Hewitt, reports;

"Slobodan Milosevic may have few friends in the international community but he received a warm welcome in Beijing with a greeting from President Jiang Zemin and a military guard of honour in Tienanmen Square. And Chinese television news ran a complimentary biography of Mr Milosevic pointedly omitting any mention of his role in the recent Balkan wars. Throughout that conflict China was one of the few countries to maintain trade links with Serbia and Montenegro after sanctions were imposed on them by the UN. China continued to supply oil to the region under a barter agreement. Analysts say Beijing's support was motivated partly by its traditional opposition to what it sees as interference by the international community in other countries' internal affairs and also by China's own fear of ethnic fragmentation. The joint statement signed by the two Presidents in Beijing's Great Hall of the People said China appreciated what it called Yugoslavia's active efforts in stabilising the situation in south-eastern Europe and has supported its return to the international community. Mr Miloesevic meanwhile pledged support for Beijing's policy that Taiwan is part of its territory. The two sides also signed an agreement on economic co-operation and professional training. Mr Milosevic, whose delegation includes the head of the Yugoslav army as well as leading businessmen, is thought to be seeking greater financial support from China. It's a message he's likely to reiterate in his meeting with China's economic supremo, Zhu Rongji, and on his visit to China's fast growing financial centre of Shanghai."

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