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US-China Anti-Terror Cooperation Strengthened

The U.S. State Department's top counter-terrorism official says China will strengthen cooperation with Washington in the fight against terrorism. After meetings with top officials in Beijing, Ambassador Francis Taylor calls the partnership between China and the United States "robust" and "evolving." But the two nations still disagree over Beijing's handling of Muslim unrest in China's west.

Ambassador Francis Taylor told reporters that China agreed to "materially" increase cooperation by sharing more information, keeping a closer eye on possible terrorist financial support, and improving coordination between the two nation's police agencies.

The Air Force general turned diplomat says China will probably allow the United States to open an office for its Federal Bureau of Investigation in Beijing, but could not say when that will be approved.

The two sides also agreed to hold formal talks on counter-terrorism efforts at least twice a year, with informal discussions as often as needed.

Ambassador Taylor says the United States is pleased with the support China has given Washington since the September 11 terror attacks.

But the U.S. State Department has criticized China's past crackdowns on independence-minded Muslim groups in western Xinjiang province. Chinese officials say these groups have used bombings and kidnappings in an effort to break away from Beijing's rule and say they should be treated as terrorists. The Muslim Uighurs differ in language and culture from the Han Chinese and they chafe under rule from Beijing.

Ambassador Taylor says China has some reasonable concerns in the area, but says Beijing should focus law enforcement efforts on individuals who commit violent acts, and to be careful not to trample on the rights of peaceful citizens. "The legitimate social and economic challenges that the people face need to be dealt with politically and not necessarily through counter-terrorism means," he said.

Ambassador Taylor also says that some Chinese nationals, apparently from Xinjiang, have been captured while fighting for the Taleban across the border in Afghanistan. He said Washington "is still sorting through the battlefield" and has not decided if it will send these fighters back to China.

Chinese officials also portrayed the talks in a positive light.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue says the talks brought the two sides to a consensus on the threat that terror poses to both nations and to world. She says they also agreed on several ways to combat terrorism.