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    Hu, Putin sign declaration in Bejiing

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    MOSCOW, March 21 (RIA Novosti)-The presidents of Russia and China signed a joint declaration Tuesday focusing on energy cooperation between the two countries, while promoting diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis and supporting China's policy on Taiwan.

    With energy-hungry China a major consumer of Russian oil and gas, energy was always going to be at the forefront of talks after Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on a two-day visit. The declaration indicated both countries' desire to continue developing contacts in the sphere.

    "The energy ministries and companies of the two countries will continue proactive work to advance pipeline projects to deliver crude oil and natural gas from Russia to China," the document said.

    Russia's mooted multi-billion dollar pipeline from East Siberia to the Pacific is one of the most important projects in this area, but has been dogged by controversy due to the proximity of its route to Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater body.

    "The sides support the investment role of enterprises in both countries to develop oil and gas resources and expand the energy potential of Russia and Chain, and also other forms of mutually advantageous cooperation, including oil and gas refining, petroleum and gas chemistry, and the expansion of machine building plants for the energy industry's needs," the document said. "The sides also intend to expand cooperation in the production of equipment for hydro and thermal power plants in the high technology sphere, information technology, nuclear power, aviation and space."

    The document said Russia and China would continue to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis around Iran's controversial nuclear programs. "The sides will continue close cooperation to resolve the situation around Iran's nuclear program by political and diplomatic efforts."

    The two countries, both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, have consistently said they are in favor of a diplomatic solution to the crisis that emerged after Tehran announced it was resuming nuclear research and uranium enrichment in January.

    In a similar vein, Putin and Hu Jianto pledged their support for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, including to prevent nuclear weapons from entering space, and to continue diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation around North Korea.

    The two presidents said that six-nation talks remained the best way to finding a solution to the ongoing Korean nuclear impasse, and called on all parties to the talks to maintain tolerance and flexibility and take a constructive approach.

    Negotiations involving Russia, North and South Korea, the United States, China, and Japan began in August 2003 in a bid to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

    At the latest round of talks in September, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, but later refused to return to the negotiating table until Washington lifted financial sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

    The U.S. has been pressing China to use its leverage as North Korea's main ally and supplier of aid to secure the resumption of the talks.

    On a more controversial issue, Russia backed Beijing's "One China" policy, reiterating support for Beijing's stance on Taiwan as the two countries signed a joint declaration following high-level talks Tuesday.

    "Russia does not maintain official relations with Taiwan, and ... is against any form of Taiwanese independence, including de jure independence," said the declaration.

    The declaration also said Russia had no official contacts with Taiwan, rejected Taiwanese membership of the United Nations and other international organizations, and would not sell weapons to Taiwan.

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