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Jiang begins visit to Cuba with greeting from Castro

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- On the fifth leg of a six-nation tour of Latin America, China's President Jiang Zemin arrived Thursday at Jose Marti International Airport, where he was greeted by President Fidel Castro.

It marked the start of a planned four-day state visit by the leader of the world's most populous communist nation to the world's least populous communist nation.

In a statement released on his arrival, Jiang expressed his "high esteem for the heroic people of Cuba," adding, "We give our most sincere wishes that you can obtain incessant and new successes on your road to socialism."

The two nations have a long history of friendship. Forty-one years ago, Castro's Cuba became the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with China.

In an apparent dig at U.S. policy against Cuba, the Chinese leader also said he "rejected all foreign interventions and threats against Cuba."

Jiang, who is on the island to increase China's political and economic ties to Cuba, was received at the president's palace.

China follows only Canada, Spain and Russia as the leading source of Cuban imports. It has sent the island nation millions of bicycles and televisions.



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