June 14, 2011 / 2:28 PM / 8 years ago

China pushes Iran to return to talks

BEIJING, June 14 (Reuters) - China’s President Hu Jintao told his Iranian counterpart on Tuesday that six-nation talks were the best way to guarantee Iran’s right of peaceful use of nuclear energy on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Kazakhstan.

Hu told President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both in the central Asian country’s capital Astana ahead of the summit, that Iran should “take substantial steps” to establish trust and “promote the process of dialogue,” state news agency Xinhua said.

“This is not only in the interest of the Iranian side, but also conducive to the general situation of peace and stability in the Middle East region,” Hu said.

Last week China joined Western powers in telling Iran its “consistent failure” to comply with United Nations resolutions “deepened concerns” about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.

The United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China issued the statement a day after Iran said it would triple production of high-grade uranium and shift it to an underground bunker which would be protected from possible U.S. or Israeli air strikes.

During his talk with Hu, Ahmadinejad said his country was willing to return to dialogue with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.

But Ahmadinejad last week said no inducement could persuade Iran to give up enrichment, despite trade incentives offered to Tehran by world powers. U.S. President Barack Obama said further sanctions were likely.

China is a big purchaser of oil from Iran, shunned by Western powers which say Tehran is seeking to develop the means to make nuclear weapons and has spurned requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

China has voted in favour of the four past rounds of sanctions the UN Security Council has imposed on Tehran for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment programme.

But Beijing has also used its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to blunt demands for more expansive sanctions that would cover oil and other major economic ties with Iran.

China has also placed more onus on Western powers to expand negotiations with Tehran.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, in Beijing on Tuesday for meetings with his Chinese counterpart Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, told reporters at a press conference that stricter sanctions on Iran were necessary.     “There is a need to tighten urgently the sanctions on Iran and make sure that they are working and they put the leadership under dilemma, either to face the whole world’s sanctions or to comply with the demands of the IAEA in Vienna ... and stop their nuclear military efforts,” he said. (Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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