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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China says Wen offers Europe "journey of confidence"

January 23, 2009

BEIJING, Jan 22, 2009 (Reuters) - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Europe from next week will be a "journey of confidence", a Chinese diplomat said, brushing aside discord with France to hold out hopes of deals that will brighten economic gloom.
 
Wen's trip from Jan. 27 will focus on economic cooperation between the two huge trade partners while the world is reeling from financial crisis, Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Hongbo told a news conference on Thursday.
 
The trip spanning seven days will help boost confidence and coordinate policies to deal with the global slowdown, said Wu.
 
"This visit by Premier Wen can be called a journey of confidence, showing China's determination to adhere to reform and opening and to promote economic development," Wu told a news conference.
 
"The international community is jointly confronting the financial crisis and this is also an opportunity for each country to expand new cooperation."
 
France is conspicuously missing from the Chinese leader's itinerary. He will go first to Switzerland and the World Economic Forum in Davos, then Germany, Spain and Britain, also stopping by to meet European Union leaders in Brussels.
 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy angered Beijing late last year by meeting the Dalai Lama while France held the six-monthly rotating EU presidency.
 
Beijing calls the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, a dangerous separatist for advocating self-determination for his homeland. It pulled out of a summit with the EU to show its anger with Sarkozy.
 
But Wu blamed the absence of France from Wen's trip on a tight schedule and said Paris had not issued an invitation. He also made plain, though, that his country is still unhappy with France and wants it to do more to mend strains over Tibet.
 
"Whoever hangs up the bell should take it down," said Wu, using a classical Chinese expression.
 
He did not give any details of the agreements and joint statements that Wen will announce in his main stops, especially London and Berlin.
 
But his focus on economic cooperation and jointly tackling world financial woes suggested Beijing is looking to use its markets, potential growth and big foreign exchange reserves as tools to win diplomatic plaudits.
 
Trade disputes between Brussels and Beijing are on the rise since the European Union's trade deficit with China has ballooned, hitting 160 billion euros ($210 billion) last year.
 
The European Union is China's biggest trade partner, and Beijing wants to avoid fresh friction over steel, textiles and other key exports.
 
Wen would preside over the signing of agreements on trade, investment, energy and other areas in the four countries that host him, said Wu.
 
London will also host the G20 summit of leading wealthy and developing nations in April.
 
Asked if Wen would seek to agree policy points with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Wu said the details of their joint statement were still under discussion.
 
But he also repeated Beijing's demand that it and other developing nations win a bigger say in the governing of global finances.
 
"The're legitimate interests and rights should be protected," he said of poorer countries. (Editing by Sugita Katyal)
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