Germany's Merkel visits resource-rich Mongolia

13th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Angela Merkel met Mongolia's leaders Thursday in Ulan Bator on the first official visit by a German chancellor to the Asian nation, which is opening its vast resources to foreign investors.

Merkel, the first leader of a G7 country to visit Mongolia since former US president George W. Bush in 2005, arrived in Ulan Bator late Wednesday from Vietnam.

She was due to meet President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who receives foreign visitors in a ceremonial ger, or traditional tent, set up on the fifth floor of the government headquarters in the country's rapidly developing capital.

The German chancellor will also hold talks with Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold during the one-day visit, which comes as Europe grapples with a debt crisis that has sent shivers around the world.

German firms have said they are keen to conclude agreements in Mongolia on rare earths, substances that are critical for the manufacturing of items including iPods, low-emission cars, wind turbines and missiles.

Mongolia is opening up its resource reserves to foreign investors, hoping to stimulate growth and pull people out of poverty in the mineral-rich but still underdeveloped country.

"Mongolia is a country very rich in raw materials and we have a very, very good chance to improve our cooperation in this field," Merkel said before her arrival.

German diplomats in Ulan Bator did not say whether the chancellor would bring up the recent release of a top Mongolian security official extradited from Britain to Germany on suspicion of kidnapping a crime suspect.

Bat Khurts was freed last month after prosecutors lifted a custody order. He was accused of kidnapping a Mongolian murder suspect and abducting him from Germany in May 2003.

Merkel began her Asian trip in Vietnam after holding weekend talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy aimed at calming Europe's economic storm.

On Wednesday the German chancellor predicted a eurozone bailout fund would be ratified this month despite rejection by Slovakia, and said all of Europe must help fight the crisis.

"The world economy is heavily affected by the financial crisis and every EU country must contribute its share to the fight against the debt crisis," she said in Vietnam.

© 2011 AFP

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