Wen's diary packed with world leaders' visits

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

It has been a hectic start to what will certainly be an eventful year for the mainland's leaders.

And no one knows this better than Premier Wen Jiabao. He is already engaged in urgent efforts to rein in inflation, planning a top-level leadership reshuffle in March and trying to organise a flawless Olympics in the summer, and is finding it hard to squeeze in time to rub shoulders with world leaders as they arrive one after another.

His schedule has been so tight that the usually punctual Mr Wen was late for a meeting with United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte on Wednesday.

He had been held up by a longer-than-planned phone conversation with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is set to arrive today for a three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai. 'Sorry to keep you waiting, I was just talking on the phone with Mr Brown. It took a bit longer than expected,' state media quoted Mr Wen as saying.

Mr Negroponte was holding talks with state leaders in Beijing before leaving for Guiyang in Guizhou province to attend the fifth session of the US-China 'strategic dialogue' yesterday.

While the issue of Iran's nuclear activities remains a key area of concern for Mr Negroponte and Mr Brown, Tehran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Beijing yesterday for a two-day visit. He will attempt to persuade Beijing to resist the imposition of new United Nations sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme when foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany meet in Berlin next week.

Following on their heels will be Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, who is due to arrive on Tuesday for a five-day visit to co-chair the second round of the Vietnam-China steering committee.

Late last year, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also visited the mainland.