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China expedites Nepal road project to boost trade (Reuters)


By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU Wed Dec 3, 2008 (Reuters) - China will expedite the construction of a delayed road project linking Nepal with Tibet to boost trade and tourism, officials said after the Chinese foreign minister visited on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, the most senior Chinese leader to visit Nepal since former Maoist rebels were elected in April to head a coalition government, also pledged $14.8 million in aid, Nepali officials said.

Beijing agreed in 2001 to help the Himalayan nation construct the 16 km road linking Syaprubensi in Nepal to Rasuwamadi on the border with Tibet.

Construction was delayed due to a Maoist conflict which ended two years ago when the guerrillas joined the political mainstream under a peace deal.

Nepal's Foreign Ministry spokesman Suresh Pradhan said Yang formally initiated construction on Wednesday. It should be completed in 18 months, he said.

Kathmandu is currently linked with the Tibetan capital of Lhasa by a road built by China in the 1970s.

"This will be an alternate route linking Nepal with Tibet," Pradhan said. "It will help boost trade, travel and tourism."

The annual bilateral trade turnover of $285.4 million is largely in favour of China, which supplies clothes, electronics and consumer goods.

China is a major donor to impoverished Nepal and has helped the landlocked country in areas like roads, hydroelectric plants, hospitals and an information technology park.

Yang met with Prime Minister Prachanda, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav and others to discuss economic cooperation.

"We respect each other's interests and sensitivities and Nepal has always been upholding the principle of a One China policy," Yadav said.

Nepal is home to more than 20,000 Tibetan refugees who fled after a failed 1959 revolt against Chinese rule. Nepal considers Tibet part of China and this year detained more than 10,000 Tibetan protesters who organised anti-China demonstrations.

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