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Iran announces visa waiver for Chinese, looks to boost tourism in face of US sanctions

China is one of remaining partners in nuclear deal and has rejected Trump administration's policy of seeking to cut Iranian oil exports to zero
Chinese tourists visit 'Gate of All Nations' at ancient Persian city of Persepolis near Shiraz in southern Iran (AFP/file photo)

Iran will no longer require Chinese visitors to obtain visas, state media reported on Sunday, as the sanctions-hit country attempts to boost tourism in the face of an economic crisis.

"The cabinet has agreed to waive visa requirements for Chinese nationals entering the Islamic Republic of Iran," state news agency IRNA said.

Tourism board chief Ali Asghar Mounesan told IRNA that "we aim to host two million Chinese tourists per year using our country's numerous attractions", AFP reported.

He said the sector may help offset economic hardships caused by tough sanctions Washington reinstated after withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear deal last year.

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Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked sanctions have particularly targeted Iran's vital oil exports and international financial transactions, and are a major factor in the country's ongoing recession.

According to IRNA, about 52,000 Chinese tourists visited Iran during the 12 months to March.

In another bid to boost tourist arrivals, Iran recently announced it would no longer stamp visitors' passports, allowing them to bypass a US entry ban on travellers who have visited the Islamic Republic.

China is one of the remaining partners in the nuclear deal and has rejected the Trump administration's policy of seeking to cut Iranian oil exports to zero.

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China, long a big importer of Iranian oil, said it rejected US sanctions, but Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, would not be drawn out on whether Beijing planned to keep buying.

"We do not accept this so-called zero policy of the United States," Fu said on Friday in Vienna after a meeting of the countries that are still parties to the Iran nuclear agreement: China, Russia, and European powers Britain, Germany and France.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Financial Tribune website reported on Sunday that the Islamic republic’s information and communications technology minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, told Chinese Ambassador to Tehran Chang Hua that Iran and China should stand united against the United States’s unilateralism and hegemonic ambitions.

During the meeting, Jahromi emphasised the expansion of technological ties between the two countries, pointing “to vast untapped potentials in the field”.

Jahromi called China a “strategic partner of Iran in digital economic development”, the ministry’s website reported.

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