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China, Iran Meet to Preserve Nuke Deal 02/19 06:56

   BEIJING (AP) -- The Iranian foreign minister's passionate defense of his 
country's interests at the Munich Security Conference has made him "a famous 
person" in China, his Chinese counterpart told him Tuesday, as the sides met 
amid efforts to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

   Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is leading an Iranian delegation to 
Beijing that includes parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and the ministers of 
finance and petroleum, as well as the CEO of the country's central bank.

   Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been 
trying to preserve the 2015 deal meant to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear 
weapons in exchange for sanctions relief after the unilateral withdrawal of the 
United States last year.

   "Yesterday evening I saw on TV how you defended the rights of Iran loud and 
clear at the Munich Security Conference," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told 
Zarif. "I think an audience of hundreds of millions of Chinese also watched 
what you said and you are a famous person now."

   A perception held by many Chinese that the U.S. seeks to contain their 
nation's global rise generates sympathy among the public for Iran and other 
countries, such as Venezuela, identified by Washington as hostile powers.

   Zarif told the Munich conference on Sunday that a barter-type system known 
as INSTEX set up last month by France, Germany and Britain to allow businesses 
to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran, and thereby evade possible 
U.S. sanctions, fell short of commitments to save the nuclear deal.

   He addressed the conference a day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence 
prodded Germany, France and Britain to follow Washington in withdrawing from 
the deal and to "stop undermining U.S. sanctions."

   Wang made no direct comments on China's position on the deal in opening 
remarks before reporters on Tuesday, but said he was "really delighted" to meet 
with Zarif "given the major changes in the Middle East and the international 

   "I would like to take this opportunity to have this in-depth strategic 
communication with my old friend to deepen the strategic trust between our two 
countries and to ensure fresh progress of the bilateral comprehensive and 
strategic partnership," Wang said.

   Zarif responded by saying Iran's relationship with China "is very valuable 
to us."

   "We consider the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China 
as one of our most important relations," he said.

   Prior to parliamentary speaker Larijani's departure from Tehran, China's 
official Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying that Iran and China have 
"close and amicable" relations in diverse areas, and that both sides have 
enjoyed the support of each other in the international arena.

   Asked about China's position on the Iran deal and Washington's re-imposition 
of sanctions, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had made clear 
its disapproval.

   "We have always opposed unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction," 
Geng said, referring to U.S. efforts to compel other countries to adhere to 
measures it imposes outside the United Nations.

   China has long sought to balance its relations in the Middle East between 
rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia --- one of its chief suppliers of crude oil --- 
whose de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is due to visit 
Beijing on Thursday and Friday for meetings with President Xi Jinping and other 
Chinese officials.

   Iran is also an important source of crude imports to China, which has also 
invested in manufacturing and other industries in Iran.

   At the same time, China has sought to remain a friend to Israel --- which 
Iran regards with hostility --- partly to avail itself of the country's 
cutting-edge technologies.

   Yin Gang, a retired researcher formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social 
Sciences, said China was feeling a greater sense of urgency and may press Iran 
to take a "practical attitude" in light of U.S. concerns over its missile 
program, support for Syria's embattled leader and other U.S. concerns.

   The Saudi crown prince's visit imposes pressure from the opposite direction, 
however, Yin said.

   "For many years, Saudi Arabia has expressed its hopes that China not do 
anything to block sanctioning Iran," Yin said.


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