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China, Nigeria Discuss 'Strategic Partnership'

China and Nigeria have explored ways of boosting political and economic relations during talks in Abuja Monday. Both countries are hoping to benefit substantially from the new partnership.

Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing said he recognizes Nigeria as a strategic partner in Africa. The Chinese official who was in Abuja late Monday night, left a few hours later, canceling the rest of his African tour. He left for Kuwait following the death of the Kuwaiti monarch.

Li held discussions with his Nigerian counterpart Olu Adeniji at the Abuja airport. Both men signed a number of protocols covering several aspects of bilateral relations, including a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a strategic partnership. The Chinese foreign minister described the brief visit as a success.

Officials say Chinese firms have found Nigeria a very attractive destination in the last few years. The oil, power, telecommunications and manufacturing sectors have become some of the targets of Chinese investment. Nigerian oil is a major attraction for China, which is keen to enhance the supply of oil to its rapidly expanding economy.

China National Overseas Oil Company announced last week that it had paid more than $2 billion for a stake in a Nigerian oil block. Joe Anichebe, spokesman for BPE, Nigeria's agency for the privatization of state-owned enterprises, says Chinese investors have shown tremendous interest in acquiring previously state-owned enterprises.

"They understand our environment and that's why they are pushing to invest," he said. "And we are also holding investment fora with various Chinese agencies to come and invest and they've been taking advantage of it, particularly in the privatization program. And we will continue to appeal to them to come and invest."

Chinese Foreign Minister Li also announced a grant of about $400,000 to Nigeria to fund poverty reduction projects. He also promised Chinese assistance to the West African nation in the construction and launch of a $200 million communications satellite.

Abuja has responded with equal enthusiasm to the growing ties with Beijing. Nigeria's non-oil exports to China in the last year were about $500 million. The figure is set to double in 2006.