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Jiang hopes D.C. trip will improve ties despite human-rights stance

Though striking a tough stance on human rights, China's president was optimistic Saturday that his trip to Washington would improve ties, and he welcomed conciliatory words by President Clinton.

President Jiang Zemin, who leaves Sunday for Washington, also expressed confidence that the summit would lead to relaxed U.S. rules on high-tech exports to China."I hope and believe that my U.S. tour will produce important results through joint efforts by both sides," he said in a rare news conference with foreign reporters.

Jiang indicated he had no intention of releasing dissidents as a goodwill gesture or embracing Western-style political freedoms. However, he confirmed that his government will sign a U.N. treaty requiring China to ban discrimination and protect the poor. He did not mention a companion treaty on political rights.

His visit - the first by a Chinese leader to Washington in 12 years - comes at a time when Sino-U.S. relations are troubled by issues ranging from U.S. ties with Taiwan to China's human-rights record and arms sales to Iran, Pakistan and other countries.

In what may have been practice for dealing with reporters in the United States, the hourlong news conference was the first in which reporters were allowed to ask Jiang questions without submitting them in advance.

Jiang, 71, appeared relaxed and confident, sipping tea and chuckling at questions about his life and worries about the trip.

He acknowledged "different views" between Beijing and Washington but stressed their "common responsibility" to promote stability and prosperity.

"I think China-U.S. relations are moving toward a good direction, and I believe the statement President Clinton gave . . . also stressed his hopes of helping China-U.S. relations," he said.

Jiang, the chosen successor of the late leader Deng Xiaoping, said he didn't want to let trade issues dominate his visit. His government increasingly wants to be treated as a world power, and Jiang said he planned to discuss a range of issues with U.S. officials.

But he suggested that one way to reduce the Chinese trade surplus with the United States - more than $40 billion last year - would be to allow more high-tech exports to China. Washington has resisted selling goods with military uses and recently demanded the return of a supercomputer that was alleged to have been transferred to the Chinese military.

Jiang also appealed for American understanding of the political system over which he presides.

Meanwhile in Washington, Clinton rejected calls Friday for a confrontational approach to China as his senior aides returned from Beijing with U.S.-sought assurances that the Chinese will end its nuclear cooperation with Iran.

Halting China's nuclear assistance to Iran, which U.S. intelligence officials believe is developing atomic weapons, paves the way for Clinton to allow the U.S. nuclear industry to sell reactors and materials to China.

Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are now reviewing the agreement.