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China still leery on U.S. sanctions push for Iran
LONDON (Reuters) - China called on Thursday for efforts to resume dialogue with Iran over its nuclear programme, stalling U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton's efforts to win public commitment for a new round of U.N. sanctions.
"Iran's nuclear issue should be resolved through diplomatic efforts and negotiations," Yang told reporters in London, where he took part in an international conference on Afghanistan.
"We believe we should focus on resuming dialogue and restarting negotiations," he said, asked if there had been any discussion on the sidelines of the meeting on further sanctions against Iran."
Yang spoke after a meeting with Clinton, who has been working hard alongside the Afghanistan conference to build support for new sanctions on Iran among members of the U.N. Security Council.
Clinton, speaking to reporters, said that in her talks with all of her counterparts she had stressed that Iran had made no efforts to reach a compromise with the international community over its nuclear program, which Western countries fear is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Tehran, which turned down an offer from the International Atomic Energy Agency last year to reprocess uranium the West fears could eventually be used to build bombs, says the program is purely for peaceful purposes.
"Iran's approach leaves us with little choice but to work with our partners to apply greater pressure in the hopes that it will cause Iran to reconsider its rejection of diplomatic efforts with respect to its nuclear ambitions,' Clinton said.
The United States is working on Iran with other five Security Council members -- Britain, France, Russia, and China -- along with Germany, which together are known as the "P5+1."
Clinton earlier said she had good talks on Wednesday with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia, which along with China had been seen as reluctant to back new sanctions, and she saw a consensus forming on what the next steps should be.
Those steps, which diplomats say could be floated to members of the U.N. Security Council soon, could include efforts to target companies tied to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, different elements of its energy sector, or strengthening existing sanctions on the financial sector.
"We're informally sharing ideas with other members of the group in terms of what would have the greatest impact on Iranian decision making. I don't think there's consensus yet on what that might be," one senior U.S. official said.
But China appeared unwilling either in public or in private to commit to a sanctions approach, leaving the future of the U.S.-led push to get tough on Tehran up in the air.
The U.S. official, speaking anonymously, said that in private Yang had repeated Beijing's concerns on moving ahead with sanctions on Iran -- one of its major oil suppliers.
But he added that there was still room to communicate in hopes of getting a unanimous Security Council vote, noting that China had not yet rejected the idea out of hand.
"They've also said they're committed to operating as part of the P5+1, (so) there's a certain tension," the official said. "Our operating principal as a group is to act in unison, so we certainly hope they wouldn't abstain."
(Reporting by Daisy Ku, writing by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Keith Weir and Elizabeth Fullerton)
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