Thursday, March 23, 2006

China repeats it in accord with Russia on Iran

China said on Thursday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin left Beijing, that Beijing and Moscow are in accord on Iran's nuclear standoff with the West. READ MORE

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday criticized a draft U.N. Security Council statement aimed at pressuring Iran to stop enriching uranium, despite a new offer of amendments by Western powers.

The next step is likely to be bilateral contacts among ministers of the council's five veto-wielding permanent members, the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia, diplomats close to the talks said.

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, said President Hu Jintao and Putin discussed Iran during Putin's two-day visit.

"China and Russia exchanged views and both sides agreed the Iran nuclear issue should be resolved through diplomatic means," Qin told reporters.

Hu and Putin agreed that "all the related parties should display flexibility and patience," Qin added. "China supports Russia's active efforts to appropriately resolve the Iran nuclear issue."

Russia, backed by China, wants to delete large sections of the draft statement the Security Council has been studying for nearly two weeks as a first reaction to Iran's nuclear research, which the West believes is a cover for bomb-making. Iran insists it wants only to produce electric power.

Both nations fear that involvement by the 15-member council, which can impose sanctions, could escalate and lead to punitive measures including possibly military action.

Asked whether China and Russia would block the proposed U.N. statement on Iran, Qin said: "In making any actions or decisions the concerned parties should be focused on whether they truly help to reach a lasting resolution of the Iran nuclear issue, and whether they help the peace and stability of the region ... That is why we should give diplomacy more time and more space."

Qin said on Tuesday China supported a Russian compromise proposal that would allow Iran to use nuclear fuel enriched in an internationally monitored plant on Russian soil, easing fears that Tehran could divert atomic material to develop weapons.