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TEHRAN: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) and President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday.—AP
TEHRAN: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) and President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday.—AP

TEHRAN: Iranian Presi­dent Hassan Rouhani hailed on Saturday a “new chapter” in relations with China after talks with President Xi Jinping, who is touring the region to boost Beijing’s economic influence.

The two countries aimed to build economic ties worth up to $600 billion within the next 10 years, Mr Rouhani announced.

The two leaders oversaw the signing of 17 agreements in areas including politics, the economy, security and cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy.

“With the Chinese president’s visit to Tehran and our agreements, a new chapter has begun in Tehran-Beijing relations,” Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech, flanked by Mr Xi. The Chinese president also met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

It was the first visit to Iran by a Chinese president in 14 years and came just days after sanctions against Tehran were lifted under a historic nuclear deal with world powers.

President Xi arrived in Iran after visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“Iran is China’s major partner in the Middle East and the two countries have chosen to boost bilateral relations,” IRNA quoted President Xi as saying.

Beijing is Tehran’s top customer for oil exports, which in recent years were hit by US and EU sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Trade between the two countries was worth $52bn in 2014. More than a third of Iran’s foreign trade is carried out with China.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2016