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British, Chinese premiers hold talks in London

world Updated: Feb 02, 2009 08:43 IST

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was to meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London on Monday for talks on the global financial crisis and trade, at the end of a tour aimed at strengthening European ties.

Wen's first trip to Britain since 2006 marks the end of a high-profile visit to Europe that has seen him take in Germany, Spain, the EU headquarters in Brussels and the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.

One of his aims was to mend relations strained over the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader who Beijing accuses of trying to seek independence from Chinese rule for the Himalayan region, as well as to boost trade ties.

Brown has stressed the importance of Britain's relationship with China, although human rights activists have warned against getting too close.

Pro-Tibet protesters staged a noisy protest outside the Chinese embassy on Sunday as Wen visited, and five people were arrested as they leapt over security barriers and tried to run towards the building.

A rival pro-China demonstration of about 100 people faced them, while further pro-Tibet protests were planned for Monday.

Among the items to be discussed by Brown and Wen on Monday is the meeting in London later this year of the Group of 20 major industrialised and emerging powers.

The April summit will be dominated by the financial crisis, and Brown has argued that Beijing's increasing power -- it is now the third-biggest economy in the world -- makes it a "vital" partner in restoring economic stability.

In a strategy document published last week, his government made Britain's relationship with China a top priority, saying its rise was "one of the most significant developments of our time."

Brown has argued for an international approach to the financial crisis, and in Davos, Wen also backed the British leader's call for greater cooperation and against a retreat into protectionism in response to the downturn.

But Wen was outspoken about the role of western nations in the crisis, blaming "inappropriate macroeconomic policies of some economies" and "prolonged low savings and high consumption" in a lightly veiled attack on Washington.

He also said rich countries must "assume their responsibilities" and minimise the impact of the crisis on developing nations, saying it had "fully exposed the deficiencies in the existing international financial system."

In an interview with the Financial Times Monday, he played down hopes in London that China would help bolster global institutions to meet the challenge.

Brown has pressed China and the Gulf states to contribute more to global bodies like the International Monetary Fund, but Wen signalled that China was still growing and needed its reserves for itself.

He used a similar argument following pressure on signing up to mandatory cuts in carbon emissions when a new global deal is agreed to follow the Kyoto Protocol.