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. China's foreign minister to visit Iran, nuclear program on agenda
BEIJING (AFP) Nov 04, 2004
China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will visit Iran this week and will hold talks about its nuclear program, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

During the two-day visit beginning Saturday, Li will discuss Iran's alleged uranium enrichment program, said ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue.

Iran is coming under pressure from the United States to come clean on an alleged program to develop nuclear weapons and to suspend all activities to enrich uranium.

Iran suspended uranium enrichment in October 2003 as a confidence-building measure. But it has continued to carry out support activities such as building the centrifuges that refine the uranium despite pledges to Britain, France and Germany to halt that work.

Iran insists its program is for civilian energy purposes but the United States maintains that it hides nuclear weapons development.

"We hope this issue will be handled within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Zhang told a regular briefing.

China is also looking to Iran to supply natural gas to help feed its insatiable hunger for energy.

The two countries last month signed a preliminary accord under which China would buy 10 million tonnes a year of liquefied natural gas for 25 years from Iran in a deal worth 100 billion dollars.

Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian was quoted by Iranian media as saying the deal could eventually reach 15 to 20 million tonnes a year, taking the total value to as much as 200 billion dollars.

The memorandum of understanding also grants to Chinese oil giant Sinopec the right to exploit the Yadavaran oil field on a buy-back basis in cooperation with a major international oil company.

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