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China's Xi to make first state visit to U.S. as both flag problems

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Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Dufour/Pool

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first state visit to the United States in September, China said on Wednesday, after both countries' leaders laid out possible areas of friction in a telephone call.

The world's two biggest economies have been trying to ease tension over everything from trade and human rights to exchanges of accusations of hacking and Internet theft.

U.S. President Barack Obama called for "swift work" by China to narrow differences on cyber issues, the White House said, as the two sides started planning for Xi's visit to Washington.

Last May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets. China showed its anger over the allegations by shutting down a bilateral working group on cyber security.

In a phone call with Xi, Obama said he looked forward to welcoming him to Washington for the state visit, the White House said in a statement late on Tuesday.

China's Foreign Ministry said Xi had accepted Obama's invitation and would visit in September. Xi and Obama had an informal summit in California in 2013, and Obama made a state visit to Beijing last November.

Xi flagged his areas of concern to Obama during the conversation, saying he "hopes the U.S. side can pay attention to China's concerns on the Taiwan and Tibet issues, and prevent China-U.S. relations from suffering unnecessary interference".

China has been angered in the past by U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan, which has been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Beijing also regularly warns against foreign support of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, whom it sees as a "splittist" seeking to establish an independent Tibet.

Obama and the Dalai Lama both attended a prayer meeting in Washington last week, angering Beijing.

However, the two countries also work closely on many important international issues, such as efforts to curb the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

"The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate closely on security challenges, including by jointly encouraging Iran to seize the historic opportunity presented by P5+1 negotiations," the White House added.

The nuclear talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France aim at clinching an accord to ease Western concern that Iran could pursue a convert nuclear weapons program, in return for lifting sanctions that have ravaged its economy.

Negotiators have set a June 30 final deadline for an accord, and Western officials aim to agree on the substance of that deal by March.

China said Xi and Obama had also discussed North Korea and this year's 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney in Washington, and Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Jeremy Laurence, Robert Birsel)