May 16, 2006

China says backs EU plan on Iran stand-off

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday it backed a
European plan to resolve the Iranian nuclear stand-off and
urged Iran to respond positively while Russia insisted the
threat of force on Tehran was not an option.

The European Union plans to offer Tehran enhanced
incentives to halt sensitive nuclear activities that the West
suspects are aimed at producing a bomb, coupled with a U.N.
resolution threatening possible sanctions if it refuses.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday the
European Union was ready to share the most sophisticated
civilian nuclear technology with Iran if it agreed to halt
uranium enrichment on its soil.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao suggested
that Iran should react positively to the European proposal. He
said all sides need to make "active efforts" to restart

But he also said the European plan could be improved to
satisfy the goals of both sides in the standoff.

"We also hope that the EU side will improve and propose a
package plan that will both promote the goal of
non-proliferation and take into account the reasonable concerns
of Iran," he said.

Iran reiterated on Monday that it would reject any European
proposal that demanded it halt uranium enrichment. Iran has
said enrichment is a national right and has refused to comply
with U.N. demands to halt the work.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, visiting Beijing,
said negotiation was the key to solving the stand-off and added
that neither Moscow nor Beijing would support a U.N. resolution
that was an "excuse" for force.

"Russia has always advocated using political and diplomatic
efforts to solve the nuclear issues of Iran and the Korean
peninsula," Lavrov said after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister
Li Zhaoxing.

"Nobody should threaten these countries or use military
force ... Russia and China will not vote for any resolution
that is an excuse for the use of force."

The United States and its European allies are seeking a
resolution that would oblige Iran to stop enrichment but are
facing Russian and Chinese objections.

"This problem must be resolved by talks," Lavrov said. "We
should not isolate Iran nor put pressure on Iran."