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Russia to boost oil shipments to China

BEIJING, Nov 5 (AFP) - Russia has pledged to almost double its annual oil shipments to China and to expand the two countries' cooperation on gas and space projects, state media said Saturday.

The agreements came in a joint communique signed in the Chinese capital by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov at the end of talks Friday, the Xinhua news agency said.

The two sides have agreed to almost double Russia's annual oil shipments to China by rail to 15 million tons in 2006, according to the communique.

Russia delivered 5.8 million tons of crude by rail to China last year and the amount would reach 8 million tons this year, Fradkov said earlier.

"The two countries believe that energy cooperation is 'significantly important' and are supportive to Chinese and Russian companies for their work to lay out and build an oil pipeline from Russia to China," the communique said.

Both countries will also promote cooperation on gas projects and speed up a study on a gas transmission project from eastern Siberia and the Far East to China, it said.

Wen Jiabao Thursday urged his Russian counterpart to work toward an early agreement on a Sino-Russian oil pipeline from Russian oil fields in Siberia to China.

Amid rising oil demand in Asia and fierce competition between China and Japan, Russia has decided to begin construction of a pipeline from eastern Siberia to the Pacific coast this year, instead of running it to China.

Despite the decision, Beijing has not stopped lobbying Moscow and is seeking an alternative pipeline to China's Daqing refineries that border Russia in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

According to the communique, both countries will also strengthen cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and space exploration, including a feasibility study to jointly explore the moon as well as outer space.

China and Russia have also set a goal for bilateral trade to reach between 60 and 80 billion dollars in 2010.

Sino-Russian trade was expected to reach 28 billion dollars this year, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi said earlier.

The two sides also pledged to join hands in their fight against terrorism and transnational criminal activities including illegal migration and the trafficking of arms and drugs.

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