Still time for diplomacy on Iran crisis: China

Earlier this month, the IAEA board reported Iran to the UNSC, where it could face sanctions over its controversial N-programme.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 09:47 IST

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said on Wednesday the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme can still be resolved through diplomatic means, state media reported.

"The days before the March 6 meeting of the IAEA are crucial," Li told a joint press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Li was referring to a key upcoming meeting of the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog.

Earlier this month, the IAEA board reported Iran to the UN Security Council, where it could face sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme, which the West fears is a cover for weapons ambitions.

Tehran says it wants nuclear technology simply for civilian purposes, to meet its energy needs.

The IAEA board is due to meet on March 6 in Vienna to decide whether to ask the UN Security Council to take action against the Islamic republic.

China is seeking a negotiated solution to the crisis while also trying to protect its increasingly lucrative energy ties with Iran.

Li "appealed to the international community to be calm, restrained and patient, and show flexibility in creating necessary conditions" for the resumption of nuclear talks between Tehran and the European Union, Xinhua said.

On Tuesday, China urged Iran to end its uranium enrichment activities and focus on making progress in separate ongoing talks with Russia to resolve the long-running standoff.

Moscow has proposed hosting Iranian enrichment in Russia so Iran would not acquire "breakout" technology, but Tehran says it must be allowed to enrich on its own soil.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Iranian and Russian negotiators were making little headway in Moscow. Talks were to continue on Thursday.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 09:47 IST