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Russian, Chinese Presidents Meet In Beijing --> Putin (left) and Hu shake hands in Beijing on March 21 (epa) March 21, 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin met today with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, at the start of a two-day visit.

The two pledged to pursue closer political and economic ties, in particular in the energy sphere.

Putin told reporters a planned pipeline could begin delivering Russian natural gas to China within five years and supply up to 80 billion cubic meters annually. He gave no further details.

The two sides signed 15 mainly economic agreements. But it was unclear whether there was any breakthrough for China in its efforts to secure a deal on a pipeline to import Russian oil.

Putin was accompanied by a 90-member delegation made up of leaders oil and gas companies, as well as aircraft, telecommunications, and other industries.

Earlier today, Putin and Chinese Vice Premier Tang Jiaxuan attended the opening of a media center to promote an upcoming year of Russian culture in China.

(compiled from agency reports)