Iraqi PM in Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders

By the Associated Press | July 18, 2011 | 1:14 AM EDT

BEIJING (AP) — Iraq's prime minister is in Beijing on his first official visit to China.

Nouri al-Maliki will meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday and President Hu Jintao on Tuesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says China and Iraq have a traditional friendship, and that they aim to develop economic cooperation and cultural exchanges.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Hong as saying that China is ready to work with the international community and to continue to provide assistance for the Iraqi people.

Iraq is still plagued by widespread violence. Washington and Baghdad are considering keeping as many as 10,000 U.S. forces in the country beyond a year-end departure deadline.