Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees to expand ties with Iran during visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani during a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Teheran.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani during a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Teheran.PHOTO: EPA

DUBAI (REUTERS) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and visiting Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping said on Saturday (Jan 23) their countries had agreed to expand economic and political ties, calling it a "new season" in bilateral relations.

"We are happy that President Xi visited Iran after the lifting of sanctions ... Iran and China have agreed to increase trade to US$600 billion in the next 10 years," Mr Rouhani said at the news conference with Mr Xi broadcast live on state television.

"Iran and China have agreed on forming strategic relations (as) reflected in a 25-year comprehensive document," he said.

China was one of six world powers to negotiate a landmark deal with Iran last July, under which Teheran has curbed its disputed nuclear programme and won a removal of isolating international sanctions in return.

The Chinese president is the first leader to visit Iran since the international sanctions on the Islamic Republic were lifted on Jan 16 after the deal.

Both countries signed 17 accords on Saturday, including agreements on a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route and cooperation in peaceful nuclear energy.

Mr Rouhani said the two countries had also agreed to cooperate closely to resolve the issue of "terrorism and extremism in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen".

Mr Xi is the first Chinese president to visit Iran in 14 years, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

He has visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well during a Middle East tour that began on Jan 19.

He was to meet Iran's most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, later in the day.