Chinese President greeted in Spain

President Hu Jintao of China was greeted Monday by King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as he began a two-day official visit to Spain, the final leg of a three-country European tour.

The visit, during which Madrid will try to boost its influence and increase exports to the Asian power, will also include another meeting Zapatero, a visit to Spain's parliament, the signing of high-level agreements and a Spanish-Chinese business seminar.

Hu was greeted by the king, Queen Sofia and the Socialist premier at the Pardo palace on Madrid's outskirts, where visiting dignitaries stay. He had a private dinner with the king on Sunday night at the Zarzuela Palace, the official royal residence.

Hu's visit has sparked protests over his country's human rights record and its annexation of Tibet.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called for a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Madrid later Monday and the spiritual movement Falun Gong, banned in China, has also demonstrated against what it says is religious oppression in China.

Zapatero, who visited China in July, is keen to boost Sino-Spanish trade in an effort to reduce a large deficit between the two nations, a government spokesman said.

In 2004, Spain exported Ђ1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion) of goods to China while it imported Ђ8.5 billion (US$9.97 billion) from the world's fastest-expanding economy.

Spain is one of the fastest-growing economies in the European Union. Its investment in China in 2004 stood at Ђ152 million (US$178 million), a tiny amount compared with that of economic powers the United States, Japan or Germany.

However, in late June Spanish telecom giant Telefonica bought a 3-percent stake in China Netcom for Ђ240 million (US$281 million), and plans to raise its stake to 5 percent.

Spain is the world's second most popular tourist destination and Zapatero is keen to boost the number of visitors from China. A "privileged strategic partnership" treaty linking the two nations is due to be signed, something Britain, Germany, France and Canada have done previously with China.

A series of bilateral accords are also set to be inked whereby Spain will open cultural centers in China and vice versa.

With a view to increasing links between the countries, an extradition treaty is also due to be signed, a spokesman said, although in line with EU policy no person who might be subject to the death penalty would be extradited from Spain to China, a condition that is also applied to possible extraditions to the United States, reports the AP. I.L.

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