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Report: China to gift Canada two pandas

Feb. 2, 2012 at 9:38 AM
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OTTAWA, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Frosty diplomatic relations appear to be warming as China is poised to present Canada with two endangered panda bears, the Globe and Mail said Thursday.

Unidentified sources told the newspaper the "panda diplomacy" gesture will be formalized next week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper spends five days visiting China, his second state visit in two years.

Only about 1,600 giant pandas native to southwest China remain and the government uses them as gifts sparingly, the report said.

Staff at the Toronto Zoo were reportedly already making preparations for the panda habitat.

The Conservative leader has angered Beijing several times. Harper has long protested China's human rights record and accordingly, he boycotted the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies in 2008.

Harper also infuriated Beijing by welcoming Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a head of state and granting him honorary citizenship status in October 2007.

However, since December when U.S. President Barack Obama indefinitely stalled an oil pipeline from Alberta to southern refineries, Canada has turned its interest to another pipeline to British Columbia for oil exports to China, the report said.

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