Iranian, Chinese Presidents Hold Talks
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin Thursday on the first day of a five-day visit.
Jiang welcomed Khatami on the plaza outside of the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing as the two leaders reviewed honor guards under hot sultry skies.
The two presidents were scheduled to oversee the signing of several agreements later Thursday, including trade agreements aimed at increasing bilateral trade valued at 1.3 billion dollars last year, diplomatic sources told AFP.
A joint communiqué voicing opposition to global hegemonism and power politics, euphemisms for Beijing's view of the US dominated post-Cold War world would also be issued, they said.
"Recently in the last few centuries the West has said that only they are civilized but we know that the great Chinese civilization came before the Western civilization even existed," Khatami told Jiang before the talks.
Khatami is the first Iranian president to visit China since Hashemi Rafsanjani inked a 1.7 billion dollar agreement to buy two Chinese nuclear reactors in 1992.
That deal was deleted after adamant opposition from the international community, led by the United States and Israel, which voiced fears that the reactors could be used to covertly produce nuclear weapons.
Khatami is leading a delegation of 170 officials, which include Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, Mines and Metals Minister Eshaq Jahangiri and Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ataollah Mohajerani.
Diplomatic sources said no separate meetings between defense minister, Shamkhani and Chinese military leaders had been scheduled, but they would not rule out "some programs or courtesy calls."
The United States has long suspected China and North Korea of supplying Iran with sensitive missile technology. Khatami's visit comes as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Thursday was holding meetings with Chinese leaders at the Communist Party headquarters of Zhongnanhai.
Khatami will meet Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji Friday afternoon, while also meeting officials from the communist-run China Islamic Association and visit Beijing's Niujie Mosque.
This weekend he will fly to China's western-most Xinjiang Uigher Autonomous Region where he will meet officials in the capital Urumuqi, before visiting the Grand Mosque in Kashgar, a Uigher-populated city near the border with Tajikistan.
China keeps a tight rein on the practice of Islam in the country, as it does with all religions, demanding devotees worship in state-controlled mosques presided over by state-approved imams - BEIJING (AFP)
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