January 17, 2008 / 8:23 AM / 11 years ago

China urges flexibility from Iran and the West

BEIJING, Jan 17 (Reuters) - China urged flexibility and compromise from both Iran and the West on Thursday ahead of discussions focused on possible U.N. action aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is in Beijing for talks and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is also visiting China for discussions that will feature Iran.

"We hope that Iran will be able to abide by the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and continue to show flexibility and fully cooperate with the international community," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference.

"We also hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the stalemate."

She did not say explicitly whether China favoured or opposed further U.N. sanctions against Iran.

Foreign ministers from major powers, including China, are set to meet in Berlin next week to discuss a possible third U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran.

As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China has the power to veto any resolutions.

A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year concluded that Iran stopped nuclear warhead development efforts in 2003. But Washington and other Western powers say Iran’s uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities remain dangerous and defy earlier U.N. resolutions.

With a growing dependence on Iranian oil and a general distaste for economic sanctions, China has been reluctant to embrace tougher U.N. measures.

China has urged Iran to abide by U.N. demands to answer questions about its nuclear activities, but has been reluctant to back a U.S. drive for further sanctions against Iran, which is Beijing’s third-largest supplier of imported crude oil.

Negroponte said the U.S. intelligence estimate did not remove the need for tougher sanctions.

"We think it’s important that there be an additional Security Council resolution, because Iran is out of compliance with previously passed resolutions," Negroponte told reporters ahead of his talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie and Sanjeev Miglani)

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