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Chinese President Hu Makes 1st Trip to Russia - 2003-05-26


Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived in Russia on his first foreign trip since he became president in March. Mr. Hu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials at the start of an extended trip.

After arriving in Moscow, Hu Jintao said he chose Russia as his first foreign destination to underscore the importance of bilateral ties between Russia and China.

Mr. Hu spoke to reporters at the official residence of President Putin outside Moscow. The two leaders are to hold formal talks beginning tomorrow.

One of the key issues is a long-discussed plan to construct a major new pipeline to bring crude oil from Siberia to China.

The two leaders are also expected to talk about the spread of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which has mostly affected China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Fears the virus could spread to Russia caused the closure of most Russia-China border crossings, which has had a serious impact on the booming trade in textiles, electronic goods and other products.

Mr. Hu won international praise when he fired China's health minister for the initial cover-up of the serious nature of the disease and its spread in China.

On Thursday the two leaders will attend a six-nation summit in Moscow of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which focuses on trade in Central Asia.

Mr. Hu will then travel to Mr. Putin's hometown of St. Petersburg to join dozens of other world leaders for festivities marking the 300th anniversary of the city's founding.

In another first, the Chinese president will then travel to France to meet with leaders of the G-8 industrialized nations.

Mr. Hu will complete his foreign tour with stops in Kazakhstan and Mongolia on his way home.