04/24/2006, 00.00
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Hu in Saudi Arabia and Africa to talk oil

Chinese leader is warmly welcomed in Riyadh, where he discussed greater economy and energy cooperation with Saudi leaders. He leaves for Morocco today. His US trip viewed differently by US and Chinese media.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China and Saudi Arabia have signed new agreements during Chinese President Hu Jintao's brief visit to the desert kingdom. His US trip is viewed differently by US and Chinese media as the world's biggest producers and consumers met in Doha for an International Energy Forum to discuss ways to put a lid on record crude prices

Mr Hu left the US last Saturday on his way to Saudi Arabia, where he discussed with King Abdullah a proposal to set up a Saudi-fed strategic oil reserve on a coastal city in southeast China to be used in case of conflict.

Saudi exports to China have already reached some 22.18 million tonnes last year, making Riyadh Beijing's biggest crude supplier—a refinery for Saudi oil is being built in Fujian and a joint refinery venture is planned for Qingdao.

Mr Hu and the king discussed security, defence, health and trade agreements. The two countries are already cooperating in gas exploration and possible co-operation in oil exploration and Saudi Arabia wants to create stable markets for its crude in Asia.

On his arrival, Hu received a warm welcome with local state-controlled press emphasising the two countries' good relations. The Chinese president addressed to the kingdom's Consultative Council, the closest Saudi Arabia has to a parliament, where he called for tolerance and openness to build a harmonious international community. He received with a standing ovation.

For China, the kingdom is a strategic trade partner that can respond to China's need for fuel that no other source can provide in terms of quantity and price, whilst China, with its technology, can cater to the needs of the Saudi market by providing it with quality products at competitive prices.

Today Mr Hu is due to leave for Africa where he is scheduled to engage in further talks to reach oil agreements. He will first stop on a two-day visit in Morocco and then move onto Nigeria (another important oil supplier) on Wednesday. He will finally travel to Kenya.

Meanwhile US and Chinese media have had different takes on Mr Hu's US visit. US papers have focused on the visit's lack of concrete results on the main issues (trade openness, yuan convertibility and the Iran and North Korea nuclear stand-offs for Washington, and Taiwan for Beijing) as well as its small incidents (Hu introduced as the president of China, Taiwan's official name, and protest by a Falun Gong follower).

China's state-controlled media have instead played up the symbolic moments in Hu's trip—for example, when he put on a baseball cap and hugged a representative of Boeing in Seattle.

According to experts, the different assessment reflect Bush's greater need for concrete and immediate results as opposed to Hu's need to be seen as standing on equal terms with Bush on domestic and international issues for both domestic and international consumption.

Today the 11 OPEC members met some of the major oil consuming countries to discuss crude oil prices, which reached US$ 75.17 on Friday. Prices are mounting as political tensions between the US and Iran over the latter's nuclear research rise and Nigeria's oil supplies are disrupted by internal problems.

"We are very concerned about the high oil price. We are trying to do our best on production," Qatar's energy minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, said in Doha. "But we cannot control geo-politics." (PB)

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