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China President Heads to Africa Following Visit to Russia

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ended his state visit to Russia and is on his way to Africa on a mini-tour that will take him to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo.

In the port city of Durban, South Africa, Mr. Xi will attend the fifth summit of the BRICS grouping of emerging countries on March 26 and 27. The bloc includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. He will also attend a retreat with African regional leaders, likely to focus on economic and trade issues with the leaders of the resource-rich continent.

While in Moscow, Mr. Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin said he was grateful the Chinese leader had made Russia his first foreign destination as president and called Russian-Chinese relations "a paramount factor of world politics."

Western analysts framed the visit to Russia as an effort by Beijing to boost shared strategic and business interests. China's official Xinhua news agency says the two countries are expected to strike deals on boosting oil trade and building a natural gas pipeline linking the two countries.

The two countries are closely aligned diplomatically, with Beijing following Moscow's lead on the U.N. Security Council in opposing outside intervention in Syria's bloody civil war.

Russia, in turn, has followed China's lead on North Korea, as the Council presses Pyongyang to end its push for nuclear weapons.