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Asia giants join Iran diplomacy

BEIJING/HAMBURG China said on Friday it would send a senior official to Tehran to discuss Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, and India indicated it would also weigh in, as Asia's two giants seek to head off new sanctions already playing havoc with trade.

New financial sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union are making it difficult for Iran to pay for staple food and other imports, causing hardship for its 74 million people with just weeks to go before an election. Commodities traders revealed this week that Iran has resorted to barter trade - swapping gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil for food - to avoid payments problems in international banks over sanctions. On the streets of Iran, prices for food in dollar terms have doubled or tripled in recent months. In the latest evidence of trade disruption, metal traders said Iran's imports of steel for construction had collapsed because sanctions prevent buyers from obtaining the currency needed to purchase it. Agencies

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