Nigerian president finalizes loan deals in China

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BEIJING (AP) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Chinese President Xi Jinping presided Wednesday over the signing of accords between their governments to facilitate $1.1 billion in low-interest loans for much-needed infrastructure in Nigeria.

China, which is increasingly looking to Africa for oil and other natural resources, is offering Nigeria loans to help fund airport terminals in four cities, roads, a light-rail line for its capital, a hydropower plant and oil and gas infrastructure.

Xi said both countries had been brought together by a common task of pursuing national development. "As a proverb of Nigeria reads, `A man cannot sit down alone to plan for prosperity,'" he said.

Jonathan, on a four-day trip to China, has brought along about a dozen of his Cabinet ministers including those for petroleum resources, trade and transport, as well as several state governors, senior government officials and businesspeople.

Following a meeting between Xi and Jonathan, representatives from both countries signed five deals, including a lending agreement between China's Import-Export Bank and the Nigerian finance ministry for the expansion of the airport terminals and an economic and technical cooperation pact. Details of the agreements were not immediately available.

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says the loans being finalized during this trip are part of $3 billion approved by China at interest rates of less than 3 percent.

Chinese companies are already building roads across Nigeria in contracts worth $1.7 billion.

China's demand for crude oil produced in Nigeria is expected to rise tenfold to 200,000 barrels a day by 2015, according to information provided by a team accompanying the Nigerian president.

Zhang Chun, an expert on Africa at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies, said Nigeria is important to China because it has the largest economy in west Africa and because it has oil. "There is great potential for developing cooperation in this field," he said.

On Thursday, Jonathan will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and representatives of companies including state oil company Sinopec and telecom equipment makers Huawei and ZTE.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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