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Kazakh Leader Meets British PM, EBRD President

Blair (left) with Nazarbaev at 10 Downing Street on November 21 (AFP) November 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks in London today with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who reportedly pledged to boost bilateral ties.

Kazakh media quote Blair as saying that Britain will seek enhanced economic and political ties with Astana.

Also today, the Kazakh president met with Richard Evans, the former chief executive of Britain's BAE Systems defense company.

On October 23, Nazarbaev appointed Evans to head Samruk, a state holding that manages the assets of five major Kazakh companies.

Nazarbaev also held talks with Jean Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The EBRD said in a statement that, in view of Kazakhstan's economic performance, the bank's board of directors today agreed on a new strategy vis-a-vis the oil-rich Central Asian country.

The EBRD will reportedly focus on supporting the diversification of Kazakhstan's economy, strengthening the country's financial sector, and enhancing its role in infrastructure financing and supporting foreign direct investment.

(additional reporting by Kazinform and Interfax-Kazakhstan)