Venezuela, China vow deeper ties after Chavez death

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela's new acting president, Nicolas Maduro, held talks with a Chinese delegation on Saturday and the two sides vowed to deepen strategic relations in honour of late leader Hugo Chavez.

Mr Maduro, who was sworn in late Friday, met with the chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, Zhang Ping, who represented President Hu Jintao at Chavez's funeral.

"The best tribute that we could give to our comandante Chavez is to deepen our strategic relationship with our beloved China," said Mr Maduro, who served as foreign minister for six years before becoming vice-president last year.

Mr Maduro, whose inauguration was rejected by the opposition as unconstitutional, thanked China for providing scientific and medical support for Mr Chavez's cancer treatment. Mr Chavez lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday at age 58.

Mr Zhang recalled that Mr Chavez travelled to China six times during his 14-year presidency, forging a "great friendship" with the Chinese leadership.

"We must join efforts to continue developing and deepening relations between China and Venezuela. It's the only way to comfort the soul of president Hugo Chavez," he told Mr Maduro in the televised meeting.

The Venezuelan government read a letter of condolences it received from Mr Hu, saying that Mr Chavez's death caused "great pain" to the people of China.

China is Venezuela's second biggest trade partner, with Caracas delivering 600,000 barrels of oil per day to Beijing with plans to increase it to one million in 2015, according to the Venezuelan government.

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