Iran Nuclear NewsIran must halt enrichment effort, China official says

Iran must halt enrichment effort, China official says

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Los Angeles Times: Iran should halt its uranium enrichment activities and all related research and development, a senior Chinese official said Monday, even as he advised the United States to drop its push for sanctions in order to ease the nuclear dispute. The Los Angeles Times

Tang Jiaxuan also counsels Washington to stop pressuring Tehran in the nuclear dispute.

By Mark Magnier, Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — Iran should halt its uranium enrichment activities and all related research and development, a senior Chinese official said Monday, even as he advised the United States to drop its push for sanctions in order to ease the nuclear dispute.

Tang Jiaxuan, a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, called in an interview in Zhongnanhai, the country’s seat of power, for Iran to take a more accommodating line in United Nations discussions of its nuclear program.

“Iran should listen to the call of all of the international community,” Tang said. “Iran should exercise a moratorium on uranium enrichment activities and all related activities, including research and development.”

Iran broke a moratorium on such research in February and resumed activity on a program it insists is aimed at making fuel for civilian power plants, but the United States and European countries suspect it is a cover for a nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. is seeking sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council.

Tang, who also serves on the State Council, the top executive organ, suggested that Washington consider participating in direct talks with Tehran, a prospect the Bush administration has rejected.

In the cases of Iran and North Korea, U.S. pressure, economic sanctions and other blunt tools don’t work, Tang said, adding that Washington should pursue diplomatic and political solutions.

“Sanctions can only complicate matters and don’t resolve the issue,” he said. “And people, the innocent public, will be victimized.”

Tang said that Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, should honor its obligations by limiting its use of atomic energy to peaceful purposes.

China, which as a permanent member of the Security Council holds veto power over any sanctions resolution, is a reluctant player in the Iran dispute. The Asian giant’s economic interests in Iran, including oil and gas contracts, trade ties and construction work, make it wary of offending Tehran.

Yet Beijing also opposes nuclear proliferation that might further destabilize the Middle East, given its growing thirst for oil. And China remains wary of angering the United States, a major customer for its exports.

“Ultimately, China is appealing strongly for international cooperation to cool down the situation,” said Dong Manyuan, a research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies. “They think a call for direct talks [between Washington and Tehran”> would be conducive to greater stability.”

Turning to the North Korean nuclear standoff, Tang said Washington’s focus on Iran had drained momentum from talks aimed at stemming Pyongyang’s weapons program. Tang said the so-called six-party talks had stalled in part because Washington had taken a tough line on the isolated Stalinist state, prompting its leaders to dig in their heels.

On Taiwan issues, the former foreign minister denied that China was waiting until Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian left office to try to improve cross-strait relations, as some have charged. Taiwanese opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou, who favors a more accommodating line with Beijing, is a strong contender in the next presidential election in 2008.

“We don’t have to wait for anyone to step into office,” Tang said. Beijing is willing to talk to any party or segment from Taiwan as long as they adhere to the one-China principle, he said. China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war. Beijing considers the island part of its territory.

At the same time, Tang suggested that Chen was not someone Beijing could work with. “Chen Shui-bian, the current leader of the Taiwan authority, is absolutely not a reliable person,” he said. “He is a dangerous element.”

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