01/18/2006, 00.00
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China backs Africa bid for permanent Security Council seat

China's Foreign Affairs Minister pledged this at the end of a week-long trip to Africa. The statement is part of a "charm offensive" to boost economic and political links.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China will back Africa's request for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister said. Li Zhaoxing was speaking on 16 January during a brief visit to China. "China is in support of Africa's aspirations for UN reforms," he said after a quick meeting with his Nigerian counterpart, Oluyemi Adeniji, at the airport of the capital Abuja. Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and the current head of the African Union, is one of the main backers of this proposal.

After visiting Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali and Liberia, Li cut short his visit to Nigeria to go to Kuwait to offer condolences for the death of former ruler Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

Observers say Li's trip was aimed at boosting diplomatic and political ties as well as economic links, by showing how China devotes substantial attention to African countries, often neglected by western leaders in their agendas and the matters they choose to tackle. China often draws attention to the fact that it was never a colonial power and that it never interferes with the internal affairs of nations. But this also means it has links with undemocratic and oppressive governments sidelined by other States. Zimbabwe is one example; the president Robert Mugabe was welcomed to Beijing with red carpet treatment. Beijing has been stressing its desire to put in place military and economic collaboration on an equal basis ("win-win"). A statement issued in Bamako, capital of Mali, after Li's meeting with the highest authorities, said China planned to establish ties with Africa "on the basis of 'win-win' economics with reinforced cultural exchanges". Li announced aid for Mali of around 3.6 million US dollars.

In Senegal, the Chinese embassy was reopened in Li's presence on 13 January. Dakar had ties with Taiwan until October last year.

The volume of trade between China and the black continent has quadrupled over the past five years to 37 billion US dollars. China gets one-third of the oil it acquires from Africa, especially from Nigeria. Last week, the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp clinched a 2.3 billion dollar deal to acquire a major stake in a Nigerian company which has oil and gas reserves. At least 700 Chinese firms operate in the continent, especially in the sector of natural resources (oil and gas, copper, cobalt, coal and gold) and also in the construction sphere. Africa needs overseas investments to exploit its resources and western companies often find the terrain too risky. China's economic products are invading the market, especially in the textile sector.

On 14 January, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said she did not think "China seeking oil in Africa is a threat to the United States' interests" and she hoped it would help "Africa's growth and development".


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