Sarkozy Says China's Role in Economy Talks 'Essential'

China has an "essential role" to play in efforts to boost the global economy at the next G20 meeting in November, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Thursday.

Sarkozy made the comments to President Hu Jintao during a brief stopover in China, the world's second largest economy, amid growing concern over the debt crises in the Eurozone and the United States.

"As president of the G20, I never imagined not coming to China to talk to my Chinese friends about the major economic issues that are preoccupying the world," the French president told Hu in the Great Hall of the People.

"The G20 summit must... take decisions and participate in the revival of global growth. This is a major issue and China has an essential role to play," said Sarkozy, in Beijing en route to the French territory of New Caledonia.

France currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20 forum of the world's 20 largest economies, which will hold its next meeting in the coastal resort of Cannes.

The French president is spending just five hours in Beijing, where he will have a working dinner with Hu before delivering a statement to the media.

The Chinese president said the pair would discuss "matters of global importance, including matters of the economy".

"These matters hold great stakes for France and China. This (visit) also reveals the importance that the president (Sarkozy) attaches to Sino-French ties," Hu added.

Journalists were ushered out of the room after the opening comments, but Sarkozy's office said earlier the talks would cover the debt crisis in the Eurozone.

The conflict in Libya, where France has played a major role in support of the rebel opposition, was also expected to be on the agenda.

Sarkozy flew into China hours after meeting the prime minister of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council, Mahmud Jibril, as fighters in the capital Tripoli sought to deliver a knockout blow to Moammer Gadhafi's 42-year regime.

The French president is facing an uphill struggle to win re-election next year in the face of a stuttering economy. In July, polls showed his approval rating flat lining at 34 percent.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly expressed confidence in Eurozone economies during the debt crisis, and the country has invested an increasing portion of its world-leading foreign exchange reserves in euro-denominated assets.

However in recent days China's state-run media has run critical coverage, this week comparing the current situation with the plague that hit the continent in the 14th century.

"The sovereign debt crisis, like the Black Death in the 14th century, has spread around Eurozone countries, from Greece to Ireland, Portugal, Spain," said a comment piece in the overseas edition of the People's Daily on Monday.

The newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, called for "concrete actions to restore market confidence in Eurozone nations and the euro".

Beijing, which has invested billions of dollars in rail, oil and telecoms in Libya, opposed NATO airstrikes there and initially maintained a policy of non-interference and public neutrality on the conflict.

But it then shifted its position and started making contact with the rebels. After opposition forces in the war-torn North African country entered the capital Tripoli, Beijing said it "respects the Libyan people's choice".

It has urged the United Nations -- and not the Western powers that backed the opposition movement -- to lead the reconstruction effort in the oil-rich North African country, a position that France also adheres to.

On Thursday, the official China Daily newspaper said China should "keep close contact with all parties in Libya" as the conflict appeared to enter its final stage.

"It seems inevitable that chaos and conflict will emerge as different factions of the opposition forces struggle for political leadership," the paper said.

Source: Agence France Presse

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