China says to channel fuel aid to Nepal amid deepening crisis

BEIJING- China will provide Nepal with "a certain amount" of emergency fuel aid as an energy crisis deepens in the Himalayan nation, China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, Nepal signed a deal with China on Wednesday to import petroleum products, Nepal's embassy in Beijing said, after it was forced to ration fuel after protests against a new constitution strangled supplies from India into the landlocked country. "In response to a request from Nepal, China's government has decided in recent days to provide Nepal with a certain amount of emergency fuel to help Nepal resolve the difficulties caused by a domestic fuel shortage," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

Nepal has accused India of imposing a blockade to punish Nepal for rushing through the constitution despite opposition from some minority groups. India denies the accusation, saying its truck drivers fear for their safety.

The Nepali embassy said in a statement a memorandum of understanding had been signed between Nepal Oil Corp and China's National United Oil Corp (PetroChina), without giving details of the deal. Lu did not confirm this.

Nepal had been almost totally dependent on India for overland supplies following earthquakes this year that killed nearly 9,000 people and blocked crossings from China.

China reopened a border crossing with Nepal this month and said it was using it to send in the supplies.

Old rivals India and China have used aid and investment to court Nepal for years.

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