May 25, 2001

Venezuelan leader in China to promote economic ties

                  BEIJING, China (AP) -- A day after dismissing coup rumors at home,
                  an upbeat Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met Friday with China's
                  premier during a trip meant to boost growing economic ties.

                 Chavez gave no sign of unease as he laughed and chatted with Premier Zhu
                 Rongji, who oversees Chinese economic policy, at the Chinese leaders'
                 residential compound in central Beijing.

                 Chavez, who is making his second official visit to China in two years, is
                 eager to promote trade with China -- a big potential market for his struggling
                 economy's oil exports.

                 Chavez and Chinese President Jiang Zemin signed six agreements Thursday on
                 promoting cooperation in energy, agriculture, gold mining and other fields, the
                 official Xinhua News Agency reported. It quoted Jiang as saying they planned
                 to set up a high-level committee to study the development of closer relations.

                 Venezuela already is the biggest recipient of Chinese investment in Latin America,
                 according to Xinhua. It said bilateral trade grew 86 percent last year to $351 million.

                 Chavez, a former soldier who staged a failed coup in 1992 and was later elected
                 president, has promoted ties with China, Cuba and Russia.

                 Chavez on Thursday dismissed rumors at home of a possible coup. Other Venezuelan
                 officials have rejected speculation in the media about a coup amid irregular troop

                 Asked about the reports, Chavez said, "I can't understand what your question
                 refers to, because in Venezuela there is a process of democratic stability, of
                 peaceful transformation."

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press