BEIJING—Chinese and African leaders Sunday ended a huge two-day summit with new trade deals and ringing condemnations of Western media for suggesting that Beijing is propping up African despots in order to lock up supplies of crude oil and minerals.
The milestone summit brought more than 40 African heads of state for what China said was the most important diplomatic event since its modern founding in 1949.
In a final news conference, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said leaders were dismayed at "tainted" media coverage in the West that he said cast the summit as a gathering of "African dictators who have found a new homeland and friendship to escape Western pressures, to escape accountability and respect for human rights."
Mesfin decried the "absolutely negative" coverage and said the trade deals and cooperation pledges would assist African development.
"This has nothing to do with turning a blind eye to the predicaments of Africa," he said, adding that diminishing the continent's poverty would help all of humanity.
The summit brought 1,700 delegates from 48 of Africa's 53 countries, ranging from stable democracies to entrenched dictatorships. China has drawn fire for hosting the leaders of Sudan and Zimbabwe, two of the continent's more repressive regimes.
African leaders began returning home after signing $1.9 billion in new trade deals and hearing pledges that China would double aid to the continent and offer $5 billion in loans and credits through 2009.
Details of trade deals were limited to an information sheet that said China would build a nearly $1 billion aluminum production plant in Egypt, oversee a $300 million upgrade of a highway in Nigeria, develop a $200 million copper project in Zambia and carry out other projects in Sudan, South Africa, Kenya, Cape Verde and Ghana.
A summit declaration called on wealthier nations to give more aid to Africa to fight poverty, halt desertification and combat natural disasters.
"We urge the developed countries to increase official development assistance and honor their commitments to opening their markets and debt relief," the statement said.
China, the world's fourth-largest economy, has boosted trade with Africa tenfold in the last decade as part of its drive to obtain energy and minerals to feed its voracious growth and build new markets for its manufactured goods.
Rejecting charges that China is engaging in new-style colonialism, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said his nation has given 18,000 scholarships to African students in recent years, deployed 16,000 medical workers in the continent, and sent units to U.N. peacekeeping missions in several African nations.
Li said China's oil deals in Africa do not lock other nations out of the region.
"We have always abided by and played by international rules," Li said.
"China does not seek a monopoly of oil resources. We do not seek to influence Africa's cooperation with other countries," he added.
On Saturday, Premier Wen Jiabao said in a speech that China's trade with Africa is expected to top $50 billion this year, and expand to $100 billion by 2010.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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