BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) - The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said on Thursday it has approved 13 new applicants to join the bank, including Canada, a major ally of the United States, bringing its total membership to 70.
This is the first time AIIB has welcomed new members to the bank since it inception, the multilateral financial institution said in a statement on its website.
The approved applicants include eight non-Asian countries - Canada, Belgium, Ethiopia, Hungary, Ireland, Peru, Republic of Sudan and Venezuela - and five regional members - Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Armenia, Fiji and Timor Leste.
The multilateral institution, seen as a rival to the Western-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank, was initially opposed by the United States but attracted many U.S. allies including Britain, Germany, Australia and South Korea as founding members. Canada applied to join the AIIB last year.
"I am very proud that AIIB now has members from almost every continent," said AIIB President Jin Liqun. "We anticipate further applications being considered by our Board of Governors later this year."
Reporting by Stella Qiu and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Jacqueline Wong