Iraqi president visiting China

Don't mention the war.

That seems to be the message so far in China's state media surrounding a visit this week by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Coverage has steered well clear of the violent conflict wracking his nation, instead highlighting the potential for Chinese investment in Iraqi oil, cultural exchanges and trade.

The official Xinhua News Agency even made careful reference to Talabani's endorsement of Beijing' view that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory, an issue utterly removed from Iraq's desperate need for internal stability.

"As an old friend of the Chinese people, I hope that during my presidential tenure I can do my part to promote bilateral relations, which is the goal of my visit as well as a big wish in my life," Xinhua quoted Talabani as saying in an interview conducted ahead of the visit, which formally began on Thursday.

Talabani was to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao later on Thursday, but it wasn't clear if the two would discuss the Iraq conflict.

In one passing reference to the violence, Xinhua did cite Talabani saying Iraq's government was making "great efforts to restore security and stability in order to attract foreign investment," but offered no specifics.

The decision to avoid war references may reflect China's ambivalent attitude toward the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, opposed the invasion, but far less strongly than Russia and France, and has taken little role in post-war reconstruction efforts.

The China Daily newspaper also sidestepped references to the war, focusing on the potential revival of a 1997 deal for the China National Petroleum Corp. to develop the billion-barrel al-Ahdab field. The US$1.2 billion contract had been signed between the company, also known as PetroChina, and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Despite the lack of mention of the war in the articles about Talabani, Xinhua and other state media routinely report the conflict, and Xinhua has correspondents based in Baghdad.