Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Iran, China to hold talks

NUCLEAR ISSUE Their presidents will meet next week, but Iran's deputy foreign minister was in Beijing yesterday to meet with his counterparts

AP , BEIJING

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will travel to China next week for a regional summit and hold a one-on-one meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), the foreign ministry said yesterday.

"I can confirm he [Ahmadinejad] will attend the meeting," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) told reporters.

"President Hu Jintao will hold bilateral discussions with President Ahmadinejad ... the Iran nuclear issue will be discussed," Liu said.

The Chinese side had previously said that Ahmadinejad had been invited to the leaders' summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization on June 15, although his attendance had not been confirmed.

Ahmadinejad's presence is raising expectations that China and Russia will broach the new European offer of incentives for Iran to relinquish its nuclear program.

"I think the Iranian nuclear issue will be talked about," Liu said in response to a reporter's question about what the leaders will discuss.

"China and Iran have communicated and will continue to communicate on the Iranian nuclear issue in order to enhance our mutual understanding so as to make continuous efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations," he said.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization groups China and Russia with the four Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status, and their leaders have been invited to the summit.

China and the EU have agreed to maintain close contact on Iran's nuclear program and how to peacefully resolve the issue, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Liu also said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi was in Beijing yesterday and would meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) and hold talks with his Chinese counterpart, Cui Tiankai (崔天凱).

Cui and Araghchi were expected to "exchange views on the Iranian nuclear issue and other issues of common interest," Liu said, without giving further details.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also briefed Li in a telephone call late on Wednesday on his talks with Iran this week.

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