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China's leader visits Italy with eye on infrastructure deal

MILAN (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping is launching a two-day official visit aimed at deepening economic and cultural ties with Italy through an ambitious infrastructure building program that has raised suspicions among Italy's U.S. and European allies.

Xi will be received Friday by President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, reciprocating his state visit to China in 2017. Mattarella said Xi's visit is an expression of the "solidity of the bond and mutual respect" between the two countries that celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations in 2020.

Xi later will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Italy's monument for unknown soldiers and visit parliament. The centerpiece of the state visit will be Saturday's signing of a memorandum of understanding to make Italy the first major democracy to join China's "Belt and Road" infrastructure project.

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