Icelandic Leader Discusses Human Rights With China’s Wen

Iceland President Olafur R. Grimsson and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao discussed cooperation in human rights during an hour-long meeting on the first day of Wen’s two-day visit to the north Atlantic island.

“I didn’t discuss the matter of Bo Xilai in particular with him as I didn’t want to discuss specific individuals,” Grimsson said in an interview outside his residence at Bessastadir. “We did have in-depth discussions about human rights and the possibility of cooperation between China and Iceland in that field, where China could utilize Iceland’s experience and knowledge in the field of human rights.”

Bo Xilai, the disgraced leader of the central Chinese city Chongqing, was dismissed from top Communist Party positions on suspicion of a “serious discipline violation,” according to an April 10 report by the official Xinhua News Agency. Bo’s wife and an aide remain in custody on suspicion of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.

The Chinese leader “expressed interest in building up a dialogue between the two countries on human rights,” Grimsson said. “It’s important to bring about such cooperation, where Icelandic specialists in social rights and the representatives of human rights organizations and other humanitarian organizations can participate in our cooperation with China. The premier said that China would applaud such cooperation with Iceland and with the Icelandic academic society.”

Wen’s bodyguards pushed and blocked a Bloomberg News reporter yesterday when questions related to Bo’s detainment were asked following the meeting with Grimsson.

Geothermal Visit

Wen’s tour will include a visit to Hellisheidi, Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, and a meeting with Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. It’s the first visit by a Chinese premier to the island since diplomatic relations were established 41 years ago, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said.

For Iceland, the visit is a chance to deepen ties with China and speed efforts to emerge from its 2008 economic collapse when its three largest banks defaulted. Iceland is seeking to revive its $13 billion economy by returning to the industries it once relied on including tourism and clean energy.

The volcanic island gets about 25 percent of its power from geothermal sources and the rest from hydropower.

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