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Economic Ties With Iran, Central Asia A Focus Of Shanghai Group Meeting

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) reviews a military honor guard with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 7.

China will host a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this weekend that is expected to focus on expanding economic ties with Iran and Central Asia.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani will attend the meeting of the regional security bloc created by Russia and China in the coastal city of Qingdao on June 9 and 10. Iran is currently an observer member of the organization and it is only the second time an Iranian president has attended a summit.

The presence of the leaders of China and Russia may facilitate conversations about the recent U.S. decision to withdraw from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet Rohani on the sidelines of the summit, but the nuclear deal is not on the formal agenda.

China is Iran's top trade partner and one of the biggest buyers of its oil, and Chinese leaders have pledged to forge ahead with plans to expand business ties with Tehran despite the threat posed by a revival of U.S. sanctions later this year.

One giant Chinese corporation -- ZTE -- has been hit with nearly $2 billion in sanctions this year for its alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Chinese officials said the meeting will promote Beijing's massive Belt and Road infrastructure project in Central and South Asia. Shanghai group members which have benefited from Xi initiative include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
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