Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Merkel and Wen agree on Iran issue

TRADE Aside from a joint agreement that Iran should not become a nuclear power, the two leaders reached a series of business deals on rail, telecoms and other issues

AFP , BEIJING

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao gesture on a bridge in Changpuhe Park in Beijing yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Human rights, the Iranian nuclear crisis and trade deals were on the agenda yesterday as Angela Merkel met with China's leaders on her first visit to Beijing since becoming German chancellor.

After landing in Beijing late on Sunday, Merkel began the first full day of her lightning trip with a friendly walk in an inner-city park with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

The pair engaged in light-hearted banter and indulged in a traditional Chinese racquet sport for the media cameras, before they moved to the Great Hall of the People to talk geo-politics and trade.

Following talks with Wen, Merkel told reporters that both nations agreed that Iran should not become a nuclear power.

"We talked about Iran and both [of us] agreed Iran should not have the capability to make nuclear weapons and shouldn't proliferate weapons of mass destruction," Merkel said in a joint press conference with Wen.

German officials had said in the lead-up to Merkel's trip that Germany would like to see China more closely involved in the international efforts to solve the nuclear crisis in Iran.

China, which is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, has said it is against the use of force or sanctions against Iran.

Germany, along with other Western European powers and the US, have been pushing for the Security Council to take a tougher stance against Iran.

Merkel also highlighted the fact that she raised China's human rights situation with Wen and that they had agreed to maintain a dialogue on the issue.

"On human rights, I think in future meetings we will continue to talk about this," she said.

On trade, there was not a flurry of multi-million-dollar deals that often accompany foreign leaders' visits to China; however, there was a series of agreements on rail, telecommunications and other areas.

Cooperation

In one memorandum of understanding, Germany and China agreed to work together on the building of 500 Chinese trains.

The agreement allows technical cooperation for the 500 trains between Germany's Siemens, China's Ministry of Railways and the Chinese firm CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive.

No details about the timing or extent of cooperation were given in the agreement or by Chinese officials.

Siemens president and chief executive officer Klaus Kleinfeld told reporters after the deal was signed that the total value of the project could be worth US$1.52 billion.

But it was unclear immediately how much the deal would be worth to Siemens, with Kleinfeld only making very brief comments to reporters.

Siemens signed other framework agreements with China Mobile and China Unicom to provide GSM equipment and services.

Merkel also raised concerns over intellectual property rights abuse in China, with Wen repeating Beijing's position that his government was working to fix the problem.

ipr protection

"China pays importance to protecting IPR ... we've made a lot of efforts, but on IPR protection we still face many problems," Wen told reporters.

Merkel met with President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday afternoon, and was scheduled to fly to Shanghai in the evening.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, visited China six times in his seven years in office, usually accompanied by a large delegation of German business chiefs.

Economy Minister Michael Glos and a 40-strong delegation of business leaders accompanied Merkel on this trip.

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