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Sun 24 Jan 2016 11:53 AM

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"Iranians never trusted the West," Khamenei says as Tehran seeks closer ties with China

Iran's Supreme Leader told Chinese president the US was "not honest" in the fight against terrorism in the region

"Iranians never trusted the West," Khamenei says as Tehran seeks closer ties with China

Iran's Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday called for closer economic and
security ties with China, saying Iran had never trusted the West, as the two
countries agreed to increase bilateral trade more than 10-fold to $600 billion
in the next decade.

Iran's most
powerful figure told Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit Iran wanted to
expand ties with "more independent countries", adding the United
States was "not honest" in the fight against terrorism in the region.

"Iranians
never trusted the West... That's why Tehran seeks cooperation with more
independent countries (like China)," Khamenei said.

"Iran is
the most reliable country in the region for energy since its energy policies
will never be affected by foreigners," Khamenei was quoted by his official
website as saying at a meeting with Xi.

Xi is the
second leader of a UN Security Council member to visit Tehran since the nuclear
deal Iran struck with world powers last year. Russian President Vladimir Putin
visited Tehran in November.

Iran emerged
from years of economic isolation this month when the United Nations' nuclear
watchdog ruled it had curbed its nuclear programme, clearing the way for the
lifting of UN, US, and European Union sanctions.

"Iran and
China have agreed to increase trade to $600 billion in the next 10 years,"
President Hassan Rouhani said at a news conference with Xi broadcast live on
state television.

"Iran and
China have agreed on forming strategic relations (as) reflected in a 25-year
comprehensive document," he said.

Iran and China
signed 17 accords on Saturday, including on cooperation in nuclear energy and a
revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route, known in China as One Belt, One
Road.

"China is
still heavily dependent on Iran for its energy imports and Russia needs Iran in
terms of its new security architecture vision for the Middle East," said
Ellie Geranmayeh, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

"Iran
plays quite an integral role for both China and Russia's interests within the
region, much more than it does for the Europeans," Geranmayeh said.

Khamenei said
Iran would never forget Chinese cooperations during the sanctions.

"The
China-Iran friendship ... has stood the test of the vicissitudes of the
international landscape," Xi was quoted as saying by China's Xinhua news
agency.

The Chinese
state-backed Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Saturday that China
hoped to improve ties with Iran as part of its sweeping plan to rebuild trade
links with Europe and Asia and carve out new markets for its goods.

"China is
of course considering its self interest in strengthening cooperation with Iran,
especially at a time when China is in the midst of expending efforts to push
forward the One Belt, One Road initiative, Iran is an important fulcrum,"
the paper said.

While China
seeks closer ties with Iran, earlier this week it signalled its support for
Yemen's government, which is fighting an Iran-allied militia, during Xi's visit
to Saudi Arabia, Iran's rival for influence in the region.

Iran has called
on China to join the fight against the ISIL militant group and play a more
active role in the region.

Tehran is
widely credited with convincing Russia to start its military intervention in
Syria and join the fight against ISIL.

"Although
China and Russia backed UN sanctions against Iran on its nuclear programme,
they were also heavily pushing for special waivers to continue trading with
Iran," Geranmayeh said.

"Iran had
a relationship both politically and economically with China and Russia for the
last ten years in ways that it hasn't had with Europe. So it's quite natural to
see it opening up first to these countries."

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