Chinese President Hu Jintao (search) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (search), meeting Tuesday in the Kremlin, urged North Korea to relinquish its nuclear ambitions and keep the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

Their joint declaration, which also pressed for a central U.N. role in rebuilding Iraq, came during Hu's first trip abroad as leader of China, North Korea's main ally.

"The parties stand for ensuring a nuclear-free status of the Korean Peninsula and observing the regime of nonproliferation of mass destruction weapons," the declaration said.

The statement marked the first time Moscow and Beijing spoke with one voice to call on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Russia has in the past urged North Korea to stop development of such weapons, as has China -- which last month coaxed its reclusive neighbor into talks it hosted on the issue with the United States.

But the two leaders also expressed support for the North's demand for security guarantees, and spoke of the need to create "favorable conditions for socio-economic development" of the isolated communist state.

"Any scenarios of forceful pressure or use of force for solving the existing problems are unacceptable," the declaration said.

In a reference to their countries' economic interests in Iraq, Hu and Putin said "the legitimate rights, interests and concerns of neighboring nations and other interested parties must be taken into account during the postwar settlement and rebuilding of Iraq."

"The United Nations (search) must be given the central role in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq," the two leaders said.

They added that the international community must work to "minimize the damage incurred to international relations by the war in Iraq."

Putin and Hu made a customary reference to the "multipolar world" -- the term the two nations have used to describe their shared ambition to offset U.S. global domination.

"Russia and China stand for a multipolar, just and democratic world order on the basis of internationally recognized principles of international law," they said without mentioning the United States.

Hu chose Russia for his first trip abroad after replacing Jiang Zemin as president in March in a long-planned succession.

Russian officials have stressed they expect Hu to carry on the course of Jiang, who in 2001 signed a friendship treaty with Putin -- the first such document since 1950, when Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong created a Soviet-Chinese alliance that slid into rivalry and then hostility in the 1960s.

"Relations between Russia and China have reached their highest level ever," Putin said at the start of talks Tuesday.

Hu, who visited Putin's home outside Moscow after his arrival Monday, said he highly valued their new "personal friendship."

Despite the pleasant talk, China failed to gain any visible ground in its push for an oil pipeline to bring crude from Angarsk in eastern Siberia to the Chinese city of Daqing. Russia is considering a rival, Japanese-backed proposal to lay the pipeline to the Russian port of Nakhodka on the Sea of Japan.

At a news conference after the talks, Putin pledged to help boost bilateral trade from $12 billion last year to $20 billion in the next four or five years and called for closer energy cooperation with China. But he was noncommittal on the pipeline's route, saying it needs to be studied by experts.

Referring to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, the two leaders pledged to step up medical exchanges.