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China's President Hu Tours Senegal


Chinese President Hu Jintao is in Senegal on the second stop of a four-nation tour of Africa.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade joined the Chinese leader in a review of Senegalese army troops as part of a welcome ceremony at Dakar's airport ringed with Chinese and Senegalese flags.

This is President Hu's first trip to Senegal and comes just four years after the restoration of diplomatic relations.

After a state dinner hosted by President Wade Friday, President Hu meets with the President of Senegal's Senate Saturday ahead of meetings with the president of the National Assembly and members of the Chinese business community here.

China is Africa's third largest trading partner with more than $100 billion worth of business last year. That is up 45 percent from 2007 and represents a ten-fold jump in commercial transactions since the year 2000.

Much of that comes from mineral and petroleum exports from Africa. Angola is China's biggest source of crude oil. But Chinese officials say much of this trip is meant to dispel perceptions that China is only interested in Africa's rich natural resources.

Foreign Ministry officials have done a series of interviews ahead of this trip, each time pointing out that none of the countries on the itinerary are oil producers. President Hu arrived from Mali where he laid the foundation stone for a third Chinese-funded bridge in Bamako. Beijing has also paid for Mali's presidential palace and is building a hospital.

Here in Senegal, President Hu will visit the site of a new national theater that China is building along with a pediatric hospital, a primary school, and efforts to improve Senegal's bus system, electrical grid, and Internet access.

Despite the global economic crisis, Chinese officials say they will not cut development assistance to Africa and will stand by their promise to forgive debt owed by more than 30 African governments.

China's Ambassador to Senegal Lu Shaye says the international economic situation is not favorable but Chinese-African cooperation is still promising. President Hu leaves Senegal Saturday for Tanzania and the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

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