Chinese Premier Wen to visit Nepal

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is to visit Nepal in December, the government in Kathmandu said on Wednesday, marking the first visit by a leader of the world's number two economy for a decade.

"Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai disclosed yesterday that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is visiting Nepal from December 20 to 22. Bhattarai will reciprocate by visiting China after that," Ram Rijan Yadav, press adviser to the Nepalese leader, said.

"The ministry of foreign affairs is working on preparations for the visit," he said, without elaborating on Wen's schedule of engagements in Nepal.

Premier Zhu Rongji was the last Chinese leader to visit neighbouring Nepal, in 2001, although recent years have seen a flurry of visits by Chinese delegations.

Nepal is home to 20,000 exiles from Tibet and Beijing's dealings in Kathmandu were once limited to demanding support for its policies in the restive Chinese region.

But China's burgeoning commercial interests in hydro-electricity, construction and telecoms are now worth millions of dollars to the impoverished Himalayan nation.

In August, China's top communist party officials, accompanied by a 50-member delegation, visited Nepal.

In March, Chinese army chief General Chen Bingde visited Nepal and announced 1.4 billion rupees ($19 million) worth of aid to the Nepalese army for infrastructure development.

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