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African, Chinese Leaders to Urge New Investment Ties at Beijing Summit

African leaders are gathering in Beijing for a summit with Chinese leaders expected to focus on increasing economic and political ties.

The China-Africa summit begins Saturday, with high-level meetings taking place Friday. The forum is one of the biggest diplomatic events ever hosted by China.

The discussions with about 40 African leaders are likely to focus on economic issues. Trade between China and Africa's 53 nations grew 10-fold in the past decade and is expected to reach 50 billion dollars this year.

The most controversial element of the summit for many will be the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and his counterpart from Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Both leaders have been accused of gross human rights violations.

China has also been accused by humanitarian and activist groups of selling arms to authoritarian governments in Africa.

Beijing has considerable trade with oil-rich Sudan, where three years of fighting in the Darfur region has killed an estimated 200,000 people.

In recent years China has financed numerous ventures in Africa - for oil in Nigeria, Angola and Sudan, copper in Zambia and iron ore in South Africa.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters and AFP