Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Friday urged the international community to stay patient and step up diplomatic efforts to seek solutions to the Iranian nuclear issue, saying "Iran has not totally shut the door" on the IAEA proposal on nuclear fuel supply.
Addressing the 46th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Yang said that the Iranian nuclear issue "has entered a crucial stage." "The parties concerned should, with the overall and long-term interests in mind, step up diplomatic efforts, stay patient and adopt a more flexible, pragmatic and proactive policy," he said.
"The purpose is to seek a comprehensive, long-term and proper solution through dialogue and negotiations and uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and peace and stability in the Middle East," Yang added.
He pledged that China will make concerted efforts with the international community and play a constructive role in settling this issue. The West has accused Iran of using its nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon, a charge adamantly denied by Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Signaling a shift in Tehran's position, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said that there is "no problem" if Iran ships abroad its low-grade enriched uranium and takes upgraded uranium several months later.
Western nations meanwhile are seeking to have the UN Security Council approve further sanctions against Iran by the end of March to pressure Tehran into freezing uranium enrichment. The Chinese foreign minister said in Munich that it is the wrong time to talk about imposing more sanctions on Iran because Tehran appears open to dialogue.
"We believe that Iran has not totally shut the door" on the IAEA proposal on nuclear fuel supply, he said. "In order not to complicate the situation, it is better now to concentrate on consultation and dialogue to achieve a satisfactory solution," he said.
Yang called for another meeting of the so-called P5+1 dialogue, which gathers the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. "Somehow a mutually acceptable formula can emerge. There are chances for us to explore," Yang said.
The Munich Security Conference of top diplomats and defense officials opened Friday afternoon. It was the first appearance by a Chinese foreign minister in the conference's 46-year history. With major powers expected to discuss approaches to the Iran nuclear issue in Munich, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has decided to join the meeting at the last minute and was scheduled to have late-night discussions with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the security conference, told German media that the initiative for Mottaki to join the Munich gathering has come from Tehran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after a meeting with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle in Berlin that he wants to meet Mottaki on Friday evening. "Today there is indeed a chance to come to an agreement in practical issues," Lavrov said.