Iran Nuclear NewsChina urges diplomacy on Iran standoff

China urges diplomacy on Iran standoff

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AP: China called Tuesday for stepped up diplomacy rather than new sanctions to try to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rein in its nuclear program. Associated Press

By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – China called Tuesday for stepped up diplomacy rather than new sanctions to try to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rein in its nuclear program.

U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya spoke after the United States started discussions on a third round of tougher sanctions against Iran for refusing to freeze enrichment and China’s opposition signaled a tough fight ahead in the Security Council for Washington and its European allies.

Wang said discussions between U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei and Iranian officials as well as talks between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, need to be pursued.

“I do believe that now we have to put more emphasis on the diplomatic track,” Wang told a news conference. “I think if somebody is thinking of circulating a sanctions resolution at this moment, when ElBaradei and Mr. Solana are conducting negotiations, (it) is not helpful.”

The new sanctions envisioned by President Bush would require all nations to inspect cargo en route to or from Iran for illicit nuclear-related shipments or arms and freeze assets on a number of Iranian banks, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are in their initial stages.

China and Russia have balked previously at such stringent sanctions, supporting only more modest penalties that have had little effect.

New sanctions against Iran were high on the agenda when Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Maine this week.

“We’re close on recognizing that we got to work together to send a common message” to Iran, Bush told reporters after the meeting. But Putin was more cautious and indicated Moscow joins Beijing in seeking further negotiations.

“So far, we have managed to work within the framework of the Security Council, and I think we will continue to be successful on this front,” Putin told reporters.

“Recently, we’ve seen some signals coming from Iran with regard to interaction, cooperation with the IAEA,” Putin said in a reference to the U.N. nuclear watchdog. “Mr. Solana also brings us some positive data and information. I think all of this would contribute to further, substantial intercourse on this issue,” he added.

Six countries offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards last year if it agreed to freeze uranium enrichment before talks on its nuclear program. Wang said political directors from the six countries had a teleconference recently to exchange views “on what to do next on the Iranian issue.”

“My understanding is that they will call each other again, but the main idea of the six is to continue to promote the diplomatic initiative,” Wang said.

The three European nations that started out negotiating with Iran – Britain, France and Germany – have been joined by Russia, China and the United States. That means all five permanent Security Council nations are part of the international effort to ensure Iran is not pursing a nuclear weapons program.

Iran says its enrichment activities are intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity. But the U.S. and others suspect Tehran really wants to enrich uranium to a higher level for use in nuclear bombs.

Acting on a request from Iran, the IAEA said last week it will send a team to Tehran as soon as possible to work jointly on a plan meant to clear up suspicions about the Islamic republic’s nuclear activities.

Wang also indicated that U.S.-Iranian talks would also be helpful now.

The United States, which broke diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, has offered direct negotiations – but only if Iran suspends enrichment and accepts the package.

“It is my belief that other parties who have a direct interest in finding a solution on this issue should in a way engage in direct dialogue negotiations with the Iranians,” Wang said.

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