Iranian President Mohammad Khatami ended his five-day visit to China and Hong Kong Monday with a call for greater economic cooperation and the forging of closer links between East and Central Asia.
He told a business conference that Iran's position between Central Asia and the Caucasis, and its links with Europe, combined "to ensure the scope of our cooperation goes beyond the limits of Iran and Hong Kong."
Khatami, on the opening day of his visit tour last Thursday, held talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin at which the two sides agreed to boost trade and cooperate on the international stage.
The pair oversaw the signing of six agreements including trade, cultural exchange and tourist agreements. These agreements also condemned terrorism and outside interference in their internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.
Khatami told the business delegates that closer cooperation through an Asian Convergence policy would benefit all parties and could act as a buffer in the future against unexpected crises.
"In case of such unexpected circumstances as the recent Southeast Asian financial crisis, this cooperation can act as an invisible fortress, drastically reducing the ominous impacts of such crises," he said.
Khatami led a delegation of 170 officials including Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharazi, and Defense Minister, Ali Shamkhani.
He was 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.
However, that deal was cancelled after adamant opposition from the international community, led by the United States and Israel, which voiced fears that the reactors could be used covertly to produce nuclear weapons.
Khatami also visited China's western-most Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region where he met officials in the capital Urumqi.
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.
In Hong Kong, Khatami maintained his focus on the economy and his "Asian convergence" strategy.
"We genuinely believe that the Asian countries, with their past experiences and common, rich and multifarious economic capabilities, their vast underground and immense human resources, are quite capable of institutionalizing an Asian Convergence Strategy," he said.
Khatami has defined the Asian convergence as a new mode of dialogue and interaction among "living Asian civilizations as a wise way of hampering the domination of the world's unipolar system and its attempts at drawing the independent world in the orbit of globalization." – HONG KONG (AFP)
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