China pledges aid to Mongolia

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (right) and Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold (left) drink a toast during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China pledged to help resource-rich Mongolia develop its economy, offering visiting Batbold a $500 million loan and support for the key mining and energy sectors
BEIJING (AFP) – China pledged on Thursday to help resource-rich Mongolia develop its economy, offering visiting Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold a $500 million loan and support for the key mining and energy sectors.

On a three-day visit to Beijing, Batbold met with Premier Wen Jiabao and also discussed joint infrastructure projects while overseeing the signing of a raft of agreements, including the loan.

"China is willing to unify planning and coordination with Mongolia on pushing forward mining, energy, infrastructure and other big projects," China Central Television quoted Wen as telling Batbold in talks.

"China is willing to provide assistance within its means to help Mongolia raise its energy and environmental protection capacity and push forward the development of its national industry."

Wen further urged Batbold to work with China to fight terrorism, separatism and cross-border crime and that the two nations should jointly cooperate to maintain stability along their long common border.

It was unclear if the two leaders discussed recent unrest in Chinese-ruled Inner Mongolia -- which lies south of Mongolia -- where thousands of ethnic Mongols protested over alleged encroachment by Chinese mining concerns in the region's traditional grasslands.

"I believe that your visit this time can take the bilateral relationship to a new high," Wen said.

On Wednesday, Batbold met with Chinese parliamentary chief Wu Bangguo and he will hold talks with Vice President Xi Jinping on Friday.

Batbold earlier told reporters that Mongolia and China should pay more attention to their bilateral trade structure, noting Mongolia's exports to China mainly consist of heavy raw materials, which have environmental costs.

He also said Mongolian companies had started to invest in China, and that Ulan Bator hoped Beijing would support these firms, Dow Jones Newswires said.

Mongolia is opening up its resources to foreign investors in the hope the nascent mining industry -- and the deep-pocketed firms interested in it -- can help pull thousands of people out of poverty.

Ulan Bator has shortlisted several major foreign firms to develop part of the Tavan Tolgoi mine, one of the world's largest coal fields with 6.4 billion tonnes of reserves located 270 kilometres (165 miles) from the Chinese border.

US coal miner Peabody Energy, Brazil's Vale and steel giant ArcelorMittal are among six preferred bidders to develop the western portion of the mine's Tsenkhi block, which contains mostly coking coal -- a key ingredient for steel production.

The others in contention are Anglo-Swiss group Xstrata, a joint venture between China's Shenhua and Japan's Mitsui, and a consortium of Russian, South Korean and Japanese companies.

The results of the bidding are expected to be announced later this year.

source: AFP


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