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Iceland premier to meet Chinese leaders in Beijing

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir will meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang this month in Beijing as the countries sign a free trade agreement, her office said Saturday.

"The prime minister of Iceland, Johanna Sigurdardottir, and her wife, Jonina Leosdottir, will be on an official visit to China on April 15-18," it said in a statement.

She will also meet with former premier Wen Jiabao and President Xi Jinping, on a visit that will include the signing of a trade deal between Reykjavik and Beijing after six years of negotiations.

The agreement will be signed by the Icelandic foreign affairs minister and the Chinese commerce minister.

"The prime minister and premier Wen Jiabao agreed during his visit to Iceland in 2012 to put increased effort into finalising the agreement, so as to have it finalised within a year," Sigurdardottir's office said.

Wen Jiabao's trip to Iceland in April last year was the first official visit by a Chinese premier to the North Atlantic island in 41 years, and saw the countries enter a deal on cooperation in the oil-rich Arctic region.

China's interest in Iceland came to the fore in 2011 when a Chinese property tycoon tried to buy a large swathe of land in the north of the country for a tourism project.

Some observers suggested that property magnate Huang Nubo's purchase would help China win a foothold in the Arctic amid general concern over Chinese investment in Europe.

The deal was eventually blocked by the Icelandic government, after officials said China had mooted using the island as a trans-Arctic shipping port.

Retreating ice has opened up the potential for a shorter cargo shipping route with Asia, which would cut the sea voyage between Shanghai and northern Europe by some 6,400 kilometres (4,000 miles).

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130406/iceland-premier-meet-chinese-leaders-beijing