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Lee arrives in Kazakhstan for economic cooperation talks

ASTANA (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak arrived in Kazakhstan Wednesday for summit talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev to enhance economic cooperation, especially in energy and plant projects and resource development.

Another focus of Lee's visit to Astana will be a ceremony to break ground for a coal-fired power plant in the southern city of Balkhash. The $4 billion plant is the biggest-ever joint project between the two countries since they opened diplomatic relations two decades ago.

Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) and Samsung C&T each hold a 35 percent stake in the project to build a 1,320-megawatt plant that is expected to generate about 7 percent of Kazakhstan's electricity needs.

Other topics on the agenda for Thursday's summit include boosting cooperation in atomic power projects, infrastructure and healthcare areas.

Officials said Lee has developed a close friendship with Nazarbayev as he has held summit talks with the Kazakh leader every year since taking office in 2008. The two last met in March when the Kazakh leader visited Seoul to attend the Nuclear Security Summit.

Kazakhstan is the final leg of Lee's four-stop trip that already took him to Vladivostok, Russia, for an annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum; Greenland for talks on climate change and resource development; and Norway to discuss Arctic development. Lee will return home on Friday.

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