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Karzai Visits China With Ministers, Natural Gas Development Plans

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
KABUL -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai is traveling to Beijing today with a government delegation that includes the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, mines, and investment.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports that Afghanistan's minister of mines is thought to be taking information about the development of 11 natural gas sites in the northwestern Afghan provinces of Jowzjan and Maimana. An international tender is now under way to determine who will win rights to develop those natural gas fields.

China already is developing natural gas fields nearby in eastern Turkmenistan. In December, a major pipeline was opened near the Afghan border that links western China to Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

The Afghan president's office says Karzai is expected to sign agreements with Beijing on increasing trade with China. That includes an accord that would eliminate custom tarrifs between the two countries. Agreements also are expected that would boost Chinese help in the fields of communication, the economy, education, and health care.