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Afghan and Chinese presidents sign trade agreements

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Hamid Karzai's delegation included 20 leading businesspeople

The presidents of Afghanistan and China have signed agreements on trade and economic co-operation aimed at boosting the war-torn Afghan economy.

The deals followed talks in Beijing between Hamid Karzai and Hu Jintao, who said China would always support and aid Afghanistan in its reconstruction.

Mr Hu also said both countries would "actively strike at terrorism, separatism and religious extremism".

Mr Karzai vowed to guarantee the safety of Chinese companies and personnel.

China and Afghanistan share a narrow border in the Pamir Mountains.

Mineral deposits

The three agreements signed on Wednesday covered economic co-operation, training programmes and the granting of preferential tariffs for some Afghan exports to China. Further details were not given.

President Hu said his Afghan counterpart's visit would help "take our comprehensive and co-operative partnership to a new level".

Afghanistan is honoured to have a friend and neighbour like China
President Hamid Karzai

China "will always support and aid Afghanistan in its peaceful reconstruction and support Afghanistan's efforts to establish sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity", he was quoted as saying by CCTV state television.

"Both sides should... strike actively at terrorism, separatism and religious extremism and organised cross-border crimes in an effort to maintain regional peace and stability," Mr Hu added.

Beijing alleges that militant separatists in its predominantly Muslim far-western region of Xinjiang have received training and shelter from Afghan insurgents.

Mr Karzai, meanwhile, said China played a "very important role in the stability of Afghanistan and the region", according to CCTV.

Map

"Afghanistan is honoured to have a friend and neighbour like China," he said.

The BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says cash-rich China is looking to secure deals on developing Afghanistan's mineral deposits.

In 2007, a Chinese company won a tender to develop one of the world's largest copper mines in Afghanistan.

The state-owned China Metallurgical Group promised to invest nearly $3bn (£2bn) in the mine at Aynak in the province of Logar.

There are also suggestions that the Afghans want to discuss natural gas fields and iron ore deposits, our correspondent adds.

China is a major source of consumer goods for Afghanistan. However, bilateral trade totalled only $155m in 2008.

Mr Karzai's delegation in China included his foreign and defence ministers along with 20 leading businesspeople.



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