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Chinese and African officials put finishing touches on summit work

BEIJING (AP) _ Senior Chinese and African officials called for expanding trade and other cooperation between China and Africa on Friday as they wrapped up preparations for a landmark weekend summit.

Officials from both sides stressed the positive in China's growing role in Africa, noting the decades-old ties that started in Cold War political solidarity and have evolved into economic benefit.

``China-Africa friendship has stood the test of the times and changes in the international environment and it enjoys immense popular support,'' Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi told senior ministers from 48 African countries drafting a summit statement for their leaders to approve.

The summit is intended to offer a showcase for both sides to prove the relationship is working. Chinese leaders, the heads of state or government of more than 30 countries and envoys from the rest are expected to approve a declaration of mutual support. Beijing will announce an aid and investment package.

But the display comes as China's hunt for oil, minerals, markets and political allies in Africa is generating controversy. Labor and business groups in Africa have complained about poor treatment by Chinese companies and a flood of low-cost manufactured products. The World Bank has said China's hefty loans could contribute to corruption and African debt, while human rights groups have accused China of abetting human rights abuses in Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Ministers drafting documents for the summit steered clear of controversy but touched upon defiance of the West and economic ties as the basis for Chinese-African cooperation.

``China and Africa have had common experiences facing challenges to their identity and integrity,'' Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin told the meeting. As for trade, he said later in the speech, ``the potential in this area is enormous.''
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