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China's Hu Is Welcomed in Saudi Arabia

April 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Chinese President Hu Jintao made a rare address to the Saudi kingdom's Consultative Council on Sunday amid a three-day visit that has been emblematic of the oil-rich nation's overtures to Asia's growing and energy-hungry economies.

Hu offered to work with Arab countries to bring peace to the Middle East, then met with Crown Prince Sultan ibn Abdulaziz before heading to the headquarters of oil company Aramco in the Eastern Region for a tour. He departs today.

Saudi officials have said that it is natural for them to open up to Asia, given the rapid rate of development there, and that overtures to China are not intended to diminish the kingdom's ties with traditional allies such as the United States.

But analysts believe the Saudis' eastward gaze is meant to show Washington that it has options elsewhere, in countries where its citizens do not have to wait weeks to obtain visas. Saudis also have been irked at the recent U.S. cancellation of a port-management contract with a company from neighboring United Arab Emirates.

King Abdullah visited China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan this year on his first tour abroad.

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