Harper says China will lend panda pair to Canada

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BEIJING (AP) -- Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up a visit to China aimed at boosting oil sales by announcing Saturday that Beijing will lend two of the country's prized giant pandas to Canadian zoos.

Harper visited a zoo in the southwestern city of Chongqing to say that the Chinese government is loaning the panda pair to Canada for the next 10 years, Harper's press secretary Carl Vallee said.

News photos showed Harper looking on as his wife carried a squirming baby panda.

The pandas are expected to arrive in Canada early next year and will go to the Toronto and Calgary zoos for five years each. The giant panda is unique to China and is regularly sent abroad as a sign of warm diplomatic relations or to mark breakthroughs in ties.

Harper also met with Bo Xilai, Chongqing's Communist Party secretary on Saturday, Vallee said. No details of their meeting were immediately available.

One of China's most prominent political figures, Bo has been the subject of speculation in recent days after his once-close aide, former police chief Wang Lijun, went to the U.S. consulate in a nearby city purportedly to seek asylum.

Wang's whereabouts is unknown. The uncertainty has fueled speculation over a falling-out between Wang and Bo, who has been seen as maneuvering for a seat on the ruling Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, which will appoint new members later this year.