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Beijing urges talks on Iran nuclear issue
By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-18 06:16

Beijing yesterday reiterated the need for diplomacy to solve Iran's nuclear issue while urging all parties to remain restrained and return to negotiations.

Talks between Iran and the three European countries called the EU3 Britain, France and Germany are the most feasible approach and are "in the interest of everyone," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular news briefing.

He hoped that all parties are patient and try their best to restart negotiations.

"We hope the Iranian side can co-operate with the efforts by the international community to restart diplomatic negotiations, and resolve the nuclear issue," said Kong.

The three EU countries ended more than two years of talks with Iran last week after Teheran removed UN seals on equipment for enriching uranium in a research programme that could further its quest for nuclear energy or for weapons.

Teheran insists that the nuclear technology is for a civilian energy programme but the United States and the European Union doubt Iran's atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful and are seeking to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which can impose economic sanctions.

China's ambassador to the United Nations Wang Guangya said in New York this week that referring Iran's nuclear issue to the Security Council would only complicate the issue.

Kong pledged that China would make its own efforts to promote talks on the issue.

Beijing has been in close contact with Teheran, and Iranian Vice-Foreign Minister Safari visited China last week.

Representatives of China, the three EU countries, the United States and Russia also met in London on Monday for an informal discussion on the escalating dispute.

Kong said that all parties agreed that Iran should halt its nuclear research programme and return to the negotiation table, and were committed to seeking a diplomatic solution.

Russia's stance

Russia also said it does not favour imposing sanctions.

"The question of sanctions against Iran puts the cart before the horse. Sanctions are in no way the best, or the only, way to solve the problem," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow yesterday.

Lavrov told a news briefing that Russia's offer to enrich uranium for Iran remained on the table but Teheran has sent mixed signals on the proposal.

German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler confirmed that the London talks had produced agreement on convening a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on February 2.

But he said the world powers that met in London on Monday were still divided on the purpose and content of a planned IAEA resolution referring Iran to the Security Council.

Britain said yesterday it still aimed for a diplomatic resolution to the standoff. "Our ideal outcome is a diplomatic solution. This has to mean Iran abides by its international obligations that is the test," Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman told reporters.

A senior British official also said yesterday that referring Iran to the Security Council would not automatically lead to economic sanctions.

Iran yesterday urged the EU trio in a letter to immediately return to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme, an Iranian source in Vienna said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Iran had written to the EU3 and emphasized Iran's willingness to "remove existing ambiguities regarding its peaceful nuclear programme through talks and negotiations." 

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