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Chinese president visits ailing Fidel

Wed., Nov. 19, 2008

China’s president signed trade deals with communist ally Cuba and agreed to help modernize its ports and hospitals on Tuesday, part of a Latin America trip on which Chinese businessmen have been snapping up raw materials.

Taking the long view at a time of financial crisis, China is investing heavily in commodity-producing countries, and Cuba is no exception. More than a dozen deals agreed to by President Hu Jintao included purchases of Cuban nickel and sugar, along with pledges to send food and building materials to help the Caribbean nation recover from three major hurricanes.

Hu signed off on a second, $70 million phase of $350 million in Chinese credit to renovate Cuban hospitals. China also committed to help renovate Cuba’s crucial, but aging, ports.

China’s president also met with ailing former President Fidel Castro. Cuba released a photo of the pair shaking hands and chatting.

Cuban authorities provided no further details, but China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the two held a long discussion.

Tehran, Iran

Ahmadinejad ally gets interior post

A close aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was narrowly approved as Iran’s new interior minister by parliament Tuesday.

Sadegh Mahsouli, a former Revolutionary Guard Corps commander turned businessman, replaces Ali Kordan, who was forced to resign Nov. 4 after his honorary Oxford law degree turned out to be fake.

After a tumultuous meeting, which was addressed by Ahmadinejad, lawmakers approved Mahsouli’s appointment by a vote of 138 to 112, with 20 abstentions.

The president called Mahsouli “a strong character” and cited his experience in high-level management posts. “Mr. Mahsouli is one of the best among the Islamic Revolution’s second generation,” he said.

Ahmadinejad also reminded lawmakers of presidential elections scheduled for June 12.

“It is obvious that the parliament didn’t want to have another political fight with Ahmadinejad,” said Mehrdad Serjooie, an analyst at Iran’s Center for Strategic Studies. “They realized that if they didn’t accept Mahsouli, it would create serious problems for Ahmadinejad’s Cabinet, which has only eight months left in power.”

From wire reports


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