Iranian President Meets Chinese Counterpart

A02556044.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Saturday in a rare visit to China coinciding with the start of the Paralympic Games.

At the meeting, the Iranian president said that common interests and outlooks of the two countries will provide an opportunity to further expand Tehran-Beijing ties.

He congratulated Hu on the success of the 29th Beijing Olympic Games, and expressed hope the Beijing Paralympics Games would also be successful.

Hu said in welcoming words to Ahmadinejad at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square that the two would discuss Sino-Iranian relations, among other issues, during their meeting.

“I would like to further exchange opinions with you Mr. President about issues like Sino-Iranian relations,” Hu told the Iranian President.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you and other Iranian leaders for the assistance your government provided for the Chinese people affected by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake,” Hu said, according to state media.

Hu pointed to his previous meetings with President Ahmadinejad in 2006 and 2007 in Shanghai and Bishkek, and expressed willingness to participate in discussions with Iranian officials on cooperation and regional and global issues.

“Both China and Iran are big developing nations… and (there is) great potential of cooperation,” he added, according to Xinhua.

Hu was also quoted as saying Iran should settle its nuclear issue through dialogue.

“At present, the Iran nuclear issue is faced with a rare opportunity for the resumption of talks, and we hope all parties concerned could seize the opportunity and show flexibility, to push for a peaceful settlement of the issue,” Hu reportedly told his Iranian counterpart.

China is involved in multilateral talks with the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia aimed at urging Iran to end its uranium enrichment activities in a long-standing dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programs.

The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, insisting that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iran and China are close allies, with Iran’s vast oil and gas resources feeding China’s growing energy demand. China is also one of the biggest exporters to Iran.

Tehran and Beijing have improved relations in many areas during recent years. Trade between the two countries stood at more than $20 billion in 2007 and is expected to grow by 25 percent this year to surpass $25 billion.

Hu and Ahmadinejad met last week in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional grouping consisting of Russia, China and four ex-Soviet states.

Iran has observer status at the SCO, which was founded in 2001 as a counterweight to NATO in the strategic Central Asian region.

Ahmadinejad also met with Iranian athletes Saturday afternoon, and attended the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, embassy spokesman Mahmoud Rezvani told AFP.

He had originally planned to stay in China’s capital for two days, and was to hold a press conference on Sunday, but his stay was cut to one day and the media event cancelled.

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