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Jiang tells Clinton of commitment to U.S. ties

Jiang Zemin
Jiang addresses the Fortune Forum in Hong Kong  

HONG KONG, China -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin has asked former president Bill Clinton to pass along to the American people Beijing's commitment to good bilateral ties.

According to a source close to the Jiang entourage, he sought Clinton's views on Beijing's recent difficulties with Washington, but did not ask the former president to act as an "intermediary" with the administration of President George W. Bush.

The former U.S. president had an hour-long meeting with Jiang in Hong Kong at the latter's harbourfront hotel Wednesday morning.

Jiang left the territory in the early afternoon, but Clinton will stay to address the closing ceremony of the Fortune Global Forum on Thursday.

"Jiang knows very well Clinton does not hold any brief for Bush, and Jiang will not ask Clinton to bear any message to the Bush White House," the source said.

"However, Jiang wants to get reactions from Clinton, who the Chinese think represents American sectors different from those that support Bush, on issues including the spy plane and the arms sales to Taiwan."

Broadening reach

It is understood Beijing wants to broaden its lobbying efforts in the U.S. to reach groups, including the business community and elements of the Democratic Party, deemed sympathetic to China during the eight-year Clinton administration.

An Asian diplomat in Hong Kong said Jiang and Clinton had only decided to have the meeting last week.

"Jiang wants his meeting with Clinton to reflect his dissatisfaction with Bush's China policy," the diplomat said.

"At least until the Kosovo crisis in 1999, Jiang got along reasonably well with Clinton."

Bill Clinton
Clinton's talks with Jiang were 'friendly'  

The official Xinhua news agency characterized the Jiang-Clinton talks as "friendly" but did not give details.

Clinton's spokesman, P.J.Crowley, said the former president carried no specific message for Bush.

"This is a private meeting. We're not going to say much. But he's not carrying a specific message from the Bush administration," Crowley said. At his opening speech at the Fortune Global Forum on Tuesday, Jiang made no mention of on-going difficulties with the U.S.

However, the president pointed out: "Nobody should be allowed to cause tension or armed conflict against the interests of the people."

"There are still in this world a few interest groups which always want to seek gains by creating tension here and there," Jiang added without elaboration.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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