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Putin: Toxic spill incident not to hurt ties
Updated: 2005-12-13 22:18

Russian President Vladimir Putin "noted" efforts by China to contain a toxic chemical spill floating down a river toward Russia after discussing it with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Kuala Lumpur, a spokesman said.

In a brief discussion on the sidelines of the first Russia-ASEAN summit, Putin and Wen agreed that the incident which occurred after an explosion at a chemical factory in China on November 13 should not harm bilateral relations, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.

About 100 tons of dangerous chemicals equivalent to 10 tanker-truck loads was spewed into the Songhua River, which supplies water to Harbin, the nation's environment watchdog disclosed yesterday.
A stretch of potentially lethal polluted river water heads towards one of China's biggest cities in this November 24, 2005 photo. The toxic spill was caused by an explosion at a petrochemical plant in Jilin Province early in November. [newsphoto]
"Putin has noted the important measures taken by China and hopes that both sides can continue their cooperation on mitigating the damage brought on by this pollution incident," Liu said.

"The two leaders hoped and believed that the strategic partnership between China and Russia would not be affected by this incident," he said Tuesday.

Putin, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said he and Wen have agreed to work not only to clear pollution damage, but also to work more closely to protect the environment in the future.

Wen Jiabao also pledged to work with Russia to contain the river-borne toxic slick.

China has apologized for the 13 November chemical factory accident in Jilin province that resulted in tons of the industrial solvent benzene being dumped into the Songhua River, which flows into the Russian region's Amur River.

The comments came a day after the two countries launched a joint mission to monitor the flow of the toxic spill in China's Songhua River as it came to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Russia's Amur River.

Russian authorities are particularly concerned about the potential contamination of the water supply for more than 600,000 people in Khabarovsk, which is 600 kilometres (375 miles) from the slick's current location.

Putin joins Wen and Southeast Asian leaders in Kuala Lumpur for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting.

Wen also met with Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark Tuesday on strengthening mutual political trust and economic co-operation.

The premier said China supports a transparent and open East Asia co-operation, welcoming New Zealand to attend the East Asia Summit.

Clark said New Zealand enjoys a close relationship with East Asia, and is willing to consult with China during the summit.

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