Russia's Putin to discuss Siberian oil pipeline with China

Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss energy and military cooperation during his visit to China next week, as well as nuclear disputes involving Iran and North Korea, officials said Thursday.

Putin was expected to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao during his March 21-22 trip to kick off the "Year of Russia in China," a celebration of ties between the two sides.

Putin will sign a series of agreements and issue a joint statement of cooperation, China's Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui said at a news conference, but did not give any details.

The two sides will also develop five projects between their militaries to highlight "friendly cooperation," he said.

Sergei Rasov, the Beijing-based Russian ambassador, said Putin and Hu will also discuss a 1.6 million-barrel-per-day pipeline which is to run from eastern Siberia to Russia's Pacific coast.

He said oil and natural resources were "a gift from nature and a gift from God, so we must fully use that based on mutual trust and respect.

"We hope we can reach some new agreements in terms of energy cooperation during President Putin's visit in China," Rasov said.

The line, whose first section is to be completed by 2008, will allow increased oil exports to the energy-hungry markets in China, Japan and South Korea. After Saudi Arabia, Russia is the world's second largest oil exporter.

Rasov said Chinese and Russian companies are negotiating laying a pipe from Siberia to a border city in China but didn't elaborate.

Rasov said Putin and Hu will also exchange ideas on "very important international issues," including nuclear disputes centered around Iran and North Korea, reports the AP.

I.L.

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