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Chinese President Hu Jintao Thursday vowed to increase aid to African countries, cancel part of their debts, and expand trade with and investment in these countries.

Hu made the statement while meeting with his Malian counterpart Amadou Toumany Toure.

Hu, making his first visit to this western African nation, was accorded a 21-gun salute in a welcome ceremony before the two presidents started talks.

This is Hu’s second African tour since the landmark China-Africa summit in 2006 when Hu announced eight measures to promote ties with Africa, including massive tariff cuts and debt exemptions for scores of African countries, and doubling aid to Africa over a three-year period.

Hu said that as the world financial crisis has posed severe challenges, it is of greater significance to step up China-Africa solidarity and cooperation.

“China is paying much attention to African countries’ difficulties and concerns as the global financial crisis has begun to take a toll on Africa,” Hu said.

“We would like to increase communication and exchanges with Mali and other African countries so that together we will tide over the crisis,” Hu said.

Following their talks, the two leaders signed cooperative deals and gave a briefing to the media.

Hu arrived here Thursday after concluding a state visit to Saudi Arabia.

“Both countries have achieved fruitful cooperation in various fields over the past 49 years. China cherishes its ties with Mali and would like to enhance our friendship and cooperation,” Hu said in a written statement upon his arrival.

The visit is aimed at consolidating friendship, deepening cooperation, dealing with challenges and seeking common development, Hu said.

From Mali, Hu will travel to the three African countries of Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius.