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Geithner holds talks in Beijing on Iran sanctions

11 january 2012, 18:33
U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner meets with Chinese Vice Premier Li in Beijing. ©REUTERS/POOL New
U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner meets with Chinese Vice Premier Li in Beijing. ©REUTERS/POOL New
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will hold talks Wednesday with Chinese leaders in Beijing to try to resolve differences with the resource-hungry Asian giant over oil imports from Iran, AFP reports.

His visit, which will also take in Japan, comes amid escalating international tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions and a day after the United States accused Tehran of "blatant disregard for its responsibilities".

New US sanctions intended to put further pressure on Iran bar any foreign banks that do business with its central bank -- responsible for processing most oil purchases in the Islamic republic -- from US financial markets.

But Geithner is likely to encounter strong resistance from China, which relies on Iran for 11 percent of its imported oil supplies and has repeatedly opposed the sanctions.

Vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said this week that China's trade relations with Iran had nothing to do with Tehran's nuclear programme.

"We should not mix issues of a different nature, and China's legitimate concerns and demands should be respected," he said.

Geithner is also expected to raise the issue of China's currency in meetings Wednesday with Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is tipped to be the next head of state.

Washington argues that Beijing's decision to keep the yuan artificially low fuels a flow of cheap exports that helped send the US trade deficit with China to more than $270 billion in 2010.

"We are looking forward to exploring opportunities to expand our exports to China and strengthen and deepen our cooperation with China on a broad range of economic and strategic issues," Geithner said ahead of talks with Xi.

"On economic growth, financial stability around the world, on nonproliferation, we have what we view as a very strong cooperative relationship with the government," he added.

But the sanctions are likely to top the agenda for his visit, which comes in the same week the UN atomic watchdog said Iran had begun enriching uranium to up to 20 percent at a new plant in a fortified bunker sunk into a mountain.

Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, has repeatedly said it will not abandon uranium enrichment despite four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions demanding Tehran desist.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the confirmation Iran was enriching uranium was "especially troubling", again calling on Tehran to cease all such work.

International sanctions, meanwhile, have left resource-poor Japan searching for alternative supplies, as it tries to respond to US and EU concerns over Iran.

Japan is heavily dependent on the Middle East for its energy, with Iranian oil accounting for nearly nine percent of its power needs in the first 11 months of 2011 -- an issue that Geithner is expected to discuss with Japanese leaders.

The treasury secretary will hold talks with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Finance Minister Jun Azumi in Tokyo on Thursday.

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