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4 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday signed a joint declaration on a "strategic partnership" as they met in Astana.

Both leaders called the declaration of historical importance for their countries. They also discussed energy and transport issues as well as steps both countries could take in fighting terrorism.

Nazarbaev characterized the talks as friendly and productive.

"These negotiations took place in a traditionally friendly and warm atmosphere," Nazarbaev said. "We have discussed the state and the perspectives of the development of our strategic cooperation, problems of mutual cooperation, and commercial-economic, and humanitarian [issues]. We have exchanged opinions on a wide variety of international problems."

Hu called the talks effective in promoting cooperation.

"Both sides are pursuing effective cooperation in such international organizations as the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and others," Hu noted.

Hu is reported to be particularly interested in boosting energy and trade ties as he visits Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan and China are building a 988-kilometer pipeline worth some $700 million to export Kazakh oil to China. Nazarbaev said on 4 July the pipeline will be completed on 16 December.

Bilateral trade between China and Kazakhstan currently is worth some $4.5 billion, according to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

The Chinese president is due to attend a two-day summit of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Astana beginning on 5 July.

The summit is expected to focus on combating terrorism.

Hu told China's official Xinhua news agency before arriving in Astana that the SCO faces a triple threat of terrorism, extremism, and separatism in the region.

A likely topic on the agenda is recent violence in eastern Uzbekistan.

Tashkent says the violence on 13 May in the city of Andijon killed 176 people and was caused by Muslim extremist groups intent on toppling the government.

But human rights groups say more than 500 people, mostly civilians, were killed by fire from government troops.

China, Kazakhstan, and Russia have strongly supported Tashkent's position.

Nazarbaev said on 30 June in Astana that states have the right to crack down on what he termed "terrorists."

"What should the state do in such cases?" Nazarbaev said. "The state of Israel, for instance, never negotiates with terrorists."

The SCO, a regional security grouping dominated by Russia and China, includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Also participating in the summit will be representatives of Iran, India, and Pakistan, which have requested observer status.

Hu, traveling with a 150-person delegation, arrived in Kazakhstan on 3 July as part of a regional tour that has already taken him to Moscow.

Hu's four-day visit to Russia focused on boosting trade exchanges, military cooperation, and China's interest in securing greater access to Russian oil and gas.
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