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China blows cool on global warming

MALE, Maldives -- Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji wound up an official visit to the Maldives on Thursday after voicing support for the island nation's campaign against global warming.

The Maldives, a popular Indian Ocean tourist destination, comprises about 1,200 islands that are barely above sea level.

The country has criticized the U.S. decision to reject the Kyoto pact on global warming, saying a rise in sea levels would be disastrous.

Zhu, who left the island nation for Sri Lanka on Thursday, told Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom that China was ready to work with his country on environmental issues.

"We fully understand and pay much attention to the grave concerns that his excellency the president and the government of the Maldives have about global warming," Zhu said at a state banquet late on Wednesday.

China, which has called the U.S. rejection of the Kyoto accord irresponsible, is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide gas -- blamed for the "greenhouse" effect at the center of the global warming issue.

But its per capita emissions are much lower than those of many richer countries.

Beijing says developed countries should take the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The 1997 Kyoto treaty aimed to cut such emissions by major industrialized nations by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Washington signed the pact, but it has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

U.S. President George W. Bush said in March he would not support an agreement that harmed the country's economy, inviting criticisms from governments and green activists around the world.

The Bush administration is due to unveil a new national energy plan on Thursday that environmentalists fear could lead to the production of more greenhouse gases.

Zhu is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the Maldives, which has 270,000 people spread across 25 atolls straddling the equator off the southern tip of India.

During his two-day stay, Zhu inaugurated a China-funded housing project and the countries signed an agreement on economic cooperation.

More trips

It was the third stop in a swing through Asia that has taken the Chinese premier to Pakistan and Nepal.

Next on his itinerary is a three-day stop in Sri Lanka, followed by a visit to Thailand.

Zhu, due to arrive in Colombo later on Thursday, will meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga and other government leaders.

His official visit there is expected to boost cooperation between two countries that already have close economic and military ties.

Beijing is also one of Sri Lanka's most important military allies, supplying small arms, ammunition and heavy weaponry to troops battling Tamil Tiger separatists in the country's north and east.

It will be the first visit by a Chinese prime minister since Li Peng in 1990.

Reuters contributed to this report.

• Xinhua news agency
• Visit Maldives
• Government of Sri Lanka

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