Hu: boost to international profile

Hu will meet US President George W. Bush on May 30 or 31 in St. Petersburg, where they will be among dozens of leaders attending the Russian city's 300th anniversary celebrations.

 

If not, the meeting will take place soon after on the sidelines of the G8 nations summit in the French resort of Evian between on June 1 and 3. The G8 nations comprise the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. Hu will also meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

Referring to the meeting with the US president, Liu Guchang, the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, told reporters, "It will be held. Both sides attach importance to it."

   

Liu said he had no details on the agenda for discussion, but North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the reconstruction of Iraq were likely to top the list.

   

Hu's four-nation trip, from May 26 to June 5, will provide a major boost to his international profile as world leaders queue up to meet the head of China's new generation of leaders. Hu took over office in March this year.

 

SARS-free delegation

   

The entire Chinese delegation, including Hu, is taking all precautions to ensure that none carries the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) infection.

   

Hu has restricted his meetings and is undergoing chest X-rays, blood and temperature tests and injections to boost his immune system.

   

"We must absolutely guarantee that no single member of this delegation has any SARS infection," Liu said.

   

"Until they board the plane, isolation measures will be implemented. Contact with the outside world will be strictly restricted," said Liu, who will also be in the delegation.

   

"The trip will consolidate Hu's position and boost his prestige," said Ma Ling, co-author of a biography on Hu published recently in Hong Kong. "It'll be another image of Hu aside from battling SARS. He will score points."

   

Hu will meet French President Jacques Chirac and preparations are under way for a possible meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

   

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson declined to confirm whether Hu would meet Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi.