Wed Jan 3, 1:38 PM ET
BISSAU (AFP) - China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing arrived in the central African nation of Guinea-Bissau for cooperation talks during a seven-nation tour reflecting heightened Chinese interest in Africa.
Li Zhaoxing, who was met at Bissau airport by his counterpart Antonio Isac Monteiro, was to see President Joao Bernardo Vieira and sign a protocol to build on existing cooperation projects, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
China, one of Guinea-Bissau's main trading partners, has an interest in the poor and small country's fishing products and cashew nuts and plans to give it a 60-million-dollar loan for the next agricultural season, which starts around next March, the ministry said.
China has already helped the former Portuguese colony to construct several public buildings, including a new parliament premises for the national assembly and a hospital at Canchungo, 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the north of Bissau.
Last year it also donated 800,000 dollars (607,000 euros) to enable the country to host a summit of Portuguese-speaking countries.
This year is it has promised to build a new headquarters for the government and to boost cooperation in the agricultural sector.
Li, who has already visited Benin and Equatorial Guinea, was later to visit Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and Botswana.
China is keen to gain access to Africa's massive raw material reserves to feed the breakneck growth seen in its own economy. In doing so it has been criticised for dealing with countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe spurned by the West for human rights abuses.
Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao each took separate trips to Africa in 2005, returning home with a slew of energy and other business deals.
Such deals have punctuated a recent Chinese courtship of Africa that culminated last month in a China-Africa summit in Beijing drawing top leaders from more than 40 African countries to the Chinese capital.