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Australian shares end at a near 2-1/2-month low on worries about virus curbs

* ASX records fourth straight weekly loss

* Tech stocks slip to lowest in nearly a month

* Rio Tinto ends lower after CEO departs (Updates to close)

Sept 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at their lowest in nearly two-and-a-half months on Friday as hopes that the coronavirus curbs would ease soon were dashed after state leaders defended regional lockdowns and internal border closures.

Authorities defended their decisions against increased federal government pressure to lift the restrictions despite falling infection rates across the country and particularly in the COVID-19 hotspot of Victoria.

Denting sentiment further were souring diplomatic ties with biggest trading partner China, with Beijing accusing the Australian embassy in China of obstructing law enforcement by sheltering two journalists wanted for questioning.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.83% lower at 5,859.4, its lowest since June 29. For the week, it fell 1.1% and recorded its fourth consecutive weekly loss.

Miners and gold stocks led losses on the benchmark as iron ore prices slipped on weaker Chinese mill demand, while the bullion weakened after the U.S. dollar strengthened.

“The major hit is the basket of commodity prices,” said Dale Raynes, associate director at CPS Capital.

“If the increased growth and rebuilding out of China and Asia in general is slow, it will translate into weaker short-term commodity prices.”

Top miner BHP Group eased 1.2%, while Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 3.1%. The mining sub-index shed 1.5%.

The world’s biggest iron ore miner Rio Tinto ended 0.6% lower after its chief executive and two senior executives stepped down, giving in to mounting shareholder pressure following the miner’s destruction of two significant Aboriginal rockshelters.

The tech sub-index sank 2%, tracking steep overnight falls in its U.S. peers, with Afterpay and accounting software firm Xero both dropping over 2%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.5% lower at 11,748.03, led by losses in utilities and healthcare stocks. (Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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