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China focuses on steel negotiations

BEIJING, July 15 – Negotiations between China\’s steel mills and foreign iron ore producers are continuing, a government spokesman said Wednesday, despite the arrest of Rio Tinto\’s point man here.

"As far as we know, iron ore price talks are still going on," commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian told journalists.

"Given that iron ore prices are continuing to rise sharply… it is justified for Chinese steel companies, led by the China Steel Manufacturers Association, to engage in iron ore price talks to get a rational price."

An unnamed official with the association also said Monday that talks had not been suspended after Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu, an Australian passport-holder, was arrested along with three Chinese colleagues.

China\’s foreign ministry has said investigators have proof the four stole state secrets, endangered national security and caused China to suffer huge economic losses.

Security officials, in a statement published by China\’s state-run media, accused Hu and the others of plying Chinese steel executives with bribes in exchange for industry information.

The state-run China Daily on Wednesday carried a front-page article alleging that Rio Tinto had bribed executives from all 16 of China\’s major steel mills.

Rio Tinto had no immediate comment to that allegation.

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