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World News

Security summit ends in China with little to show

BEIJING (Reuters) - A security summit between China, Russia and their Central Asian neighbours wrapped up in Beijing on Wednesday with vague promises to deepen economic cooperation but no public mention of regional flashpoints like Afghanistan.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao,Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation leaders in Beijing October 14, 2009. The summit wrapped up in Beijing on Wednesday with vague promises to deepen economic cooperation but no public mention of regional flashpoints REUTERS/Kyodo/Minoru Iwasaki/Pool

Premier Wen Jiabao, speaking live on state television after the signing of a series of agreements, also made no mention of a June offer by President Hu Jintao for $10 billion of credit support to Central Asia to help fight the financial crisis.

“I believe that if all member states work hand in hand and deepen cooperation we will certainly be able to create a glorious future of peace and prosperity for the region,” Wen said after the closed door discussions.

Russia and China are core members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which some experts say is an attempt to form an alternative military bloc to NATO to counter the rising threats of separatism and extremism in Central Asia.

The SCO’s members also include the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- but their gatherings have rarely led to anything more concrete than showpiece photos and non-binding pledges of support.

Wen said participants drafted measures “to strengthen multilateral economic cooperation, handle the global financial crisis and ensure economic development”.

He made no public mention of looming regional security issues like Iran’s nuclear programme, which has sparked a face-off with the West, or instability and violence in Afghanistan, with which China and several central Asian nations share borders.

Afghanistan’s Taliban urged SCO members, in a letter posted on the Taleban website www.alemarah.info, to help the radical Islamic movement “liberate” the country from U.S. troops.

It called on summit participants “to render assistance ... (for) the liberation of the people (Afghans) and countries of the region from the claws of the colonialists and take a decisive stand regarding the West’s invasion of Afghanistan.”

China and Russia are the overwhelmingly dominant members of the SCO. Russia regards Central Asia as its historic sphere of influence, while Chinese economic sway there has been growing.

This summit was overshadowed by talks a day earlier between China and Russia, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin overseeing a tentative gas supply agreement and deals worth $3.5 billion.

In June, Hu offered a $10 billion credit line to Central Asian states, but no details have been released and it remains unclear whether any funds have been disbursed.

Also in Beijing, as observers, were Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Iran’s First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, and ministers from India, Mongolia and Afghanistan.

Additional reporting by Yu Le and Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL, editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Ron Popeski

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