Iranian traders to visit India as Clinton arrives


A big Iranian trade mission will arrive in India on Sunday to explore commercial opportunities on the same day as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts her official visit, officials said.
The six-day Iranian trip comes as Washington has been pressuring India to reduce its oil purchases from Iran in a bid to coax the Islamic republic to abandon its disputed nuclear programme.
“The timing of the visit with Mrs Clinton’s arrival is a coincidence,” Anand Seth, a spokesman for the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), a quasi-government body under the Indian trade ministry, said Saturday.
“They’re returning our visit. We invited them when we were there (in Iran),” he told AFP. An 80-member Indian trade mission spent five days in Iran in March.
The 56-member Iranian delegation is set to arrive in India on the same day Clinton lands to spend two days in the energy-hungry South Asian nation, which hopes to win a waiver from tough US sanctions on Iran. India and China, whose growing economies depend heavily on fuel imports, have publicly opposed US sanctions but at the same time have quietly been diversifying oil sources as a June deadline looms for a US decision on sanctions on importers of the Islamic republic’s oil.
India has pushed state-run refiners to diversify their imports from Iran to win a waiver from sanctions and is aiming to cut shipments from the Persian Gulf nation by 15 to 20 percent. “India has cut back on its oil imports from Iran, it has not been insensitive to American concerns (about Iran),” TP Sreenivasan, ex-Indian ambassador to the UN, told AFP. The United States say Iran’s nuclear drive is aimed at making an atomic bomb but Iran says it is for civilian energy. The Iranian delegation will also travel to financial hub Mumbai and meet with local trade bodies.
BANGLADESH VISIT: Earlier on Saturday, Clinton urged Bangladesh to pull out of a spiral of political turmoil, saying the impoverished nation’s democratic credentials were at stake.
“We urge all political actors in Bangladesh to work together for the good of the country,” Clinton told reporters following talks in Dhaka with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni. “In a strong democracy, everybody has to be rowing in the same direction because you’re all in the same boat,” she said. “We want to see Bangladesh succeed.” Clinton arrived in Bangladesh earlier Saturday for a brief visit shadowed by rallies and strikes over the disappearance of regional opposition figure Ilias Ali in April. Supporters say that he was seized by security forces. Four people have died in the unrest and rights groups say dozens more have “disappeared” — most of them politicians.
Clinton raised the issue of the disappearances during her talks with Moni and stressed the need for political parties to settle their differences in parliament and not on the streets. She also called for an end to the recent spate of violent strikes saying they “exact a heavy toll, especially on Bangladesh’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”
Clinton is the first US secretary of state to visit Bangladesh since Colin Powell in 2003. In unusually large crowds even for Clinton, thousands of Bangladeshis lined the streets for a glimpse of her motorcade. One well-wisher held a sign, “Heartiest welcome to Forgain (sic) Minister Clinton.”
After the press conference, Clinton held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and later signed a joint statement that stressed the two countries’ “shared values” and “respect for human rights and the rule of law.” Later, Clinton was scheduled to meet opposition leader Khaleda Zia.
Clinton leaves Sunday for India where her visit will coincide with that of a large Iranian trade mission, seeking commercial opportunities to mitigate the impact of US economic sanctions.