China seeks to avoid Iran nuclear issue in U.N. Security Council

Saturday, November 6th 2004, 12:00 pm
By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ China does not want to see Iran hauled before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program, but the nation's foreign minister would not say Saturday if China would veto any such censure.

Visiting Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said resolving the standoff within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, would ``serve all parties.''

His remarks came as Iranian and European officials met in Paris to continue negotiations aimed at a compromise. State-run television reported Saturday the Europeans had rejected an Iranian offer to suspend nuclear activities for six months.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, was quoted from Paris as saying both sides were showing flexibility, but agreement has not been reached.

Officials from Iran, Britain, Germany and France are holding their talks at an undisclosed location in Paris.

The three European powers have offered Iran a trade deal and peaceful nuclear technology _ including a light-water research reactor _ in return for assurances that the country will indefinitely stop uranium enrichment, a technology that can produce nuclear fuel or atomic weapons.

The Europeans have warned Iran that they will back Washington's threat to refer the Islamic republic to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions unless it gives up all uranium enrichment activities before a Nov. 25 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Tehran suspended uranium enrichment last year but has refused to stop other related activities such as building centrifuges.

Li told reporters he had spoken by phone before arriving Saturday in Tehran with U.S. Secretary Colin Powell as well as top British and Japanese officials about how to ``properly resolve'' the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

``I told my colleagues that China supports a solution within IAEA. The Iranian government is having a very positive and active cooperation with the agency,'' Li said during a press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi.

``Referral to the U.N. Security Council will only make the issue more complicated and more difficult to work out,'' he said.

However, asked if China would veto any Security Council call for sanctions, Li did not directly respond, saying only: ``I don't really know if it will be brought to the Security Council.''

Kharrazi described the Paris talks as ``complicated and difficult,'' and reiterated Iran's insistence any solution recognize Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Senior Iranian officials, most recently supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, repeatedly have said Iran has no intention of building nuclear weapons as the United States contends.

Uranium enriched to a low level can be used to produce nuclear fuel, but if enriched further it can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran is not prohibited from enriching uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but faces growing international pressure to suspend such activities.