Chinese leader in Iran to discuss economy, regional crisis – state TV

TEHERAN (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Tehran on Friday to discuss improvement of economic and political ties after lifting of international sanctions because of Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, state TV said.

Xi will meet top Iranian officials, including the country’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani.

He has also visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt during his Middle East tour, which started on Jan 19.

“A high-ranking political and economic delegation is accompanying the Chinese president during his one-day trip,” state television quoted deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour as saying. “This is the first visit by a Chinese president in 14 years.”

“Total trade between Iran and China stood around US$52 billion in 2014. But it dropped last year because of falling oil prices,” Rahimpour said. “Some 16 accords including a strategic cooperation agreement will be signed during the Chinese President’s Iran visit.”

The Chinese President is the first leader to visit Iran after international sanctions were lifted on Jan 16 under a nuclear deal reached with six major powers including China.

Muslim Shi’ite Iran and its regional Sunni rival Saudi Arabia, Xi’s first stop on his Middle Eastern tour, have been at odds since Saudi authorities executed Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan 2.

The execution triggered outrage among Shi’ites across the Middle East. Riyadh severed ties with Teheran after Iranian protesters stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad.

China has called on both countries to exercise calm and restraint amid their on-going feud.