France's Sarkozy to visit China, Iran in focus

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BEIJING, Nov 15 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to visit China at the end of the month, China's Foreign Ministry said today, in a trip that is likely to focus on human rights and international hotspots such as Iran.

Sarkozy's Nov 25-27 visit is also likely to address the issue of China's yuan currency, which euro zone finance ministers say should be made more flexible.

''Presently, the overall strategic partnership between China and France continues to receive positive standing and development,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference.

''The two countries have made significant progress in the areas of aviation, space, nuclear energy, telecommunications, agriculture, justice, and humanity,'' he said.

Bilateral trade between January and July was 17.5 billion dollars, up nearly 30 per cent from the previous year, Liu added.

Sarkozy, who was elected in May, criticised China over its human rights record on the campaign trail and has said he wants to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy.

But he has also said he wants to have a ''trusting, regular and friendly'' relationship with China.

The two are veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, which is grappling with how to deal with Iran's nuclear intentions, the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and Myanmar's military rulers.

REUTERS PD RN1455

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