May 11, 2006

China sticks to diplomacy call in Iran dispute

BEIJING (Reuters) - Under growing pressure from Washington,
China on Thursday stuck to calls to defuse the Iran nuclear row
through diplomacy and said it disapproved of using sanctions in
international disputes.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick of State
said on Wednesday that China's handling of the deepening
dispute over Iran's nuclear activities -- which Washington and
EU powers say are pitched toward reaching the ability to make
atomic weapons -- would be a "critical" test of China-U.S.

Asked about Zoellick's comments, a spokesman for China's
Foreign Ministry, Liu Jianchao, sidestepped providing a
response and called for intensified diplomacy.

Liu told a regular news briefing in Beijing that the Iran
dispute was at a "crucial moment" and China hoped to see
"continued diplomatic efforts" to broker a peaceful solution.

"We disapprove of rashly applying sanctions or threats of
armed force to resolve international disputes," Liu said.

Washington and its European allies are seeking a U.N.
Security Council resolution that would require Iran to stop
enriching uranium, or face possible sanctions.

But Russia and China have so far resisted Washington's
calls for tougher U.N. action, especially a resolution that
could pave the way for sanctions against Iran.

Russia and China are, along with the United States, Britain
and France, a veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N.
Security Council.

Washington has also leaned on Beijing to bring North Korea
back to six-party talks over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons plans.
South Korea, Japan and Russia also take part in the talks.

The last round of those talks was in November, and efforts
to restart them have languished after Pyongyang said it would
not rejoin them while Washington threatened sanctions after
finding North Korea laundered money and issued counterfeit U.S.

Liu called on Pyongyang and Washington to patch up their
differences by being "flexible and pragmatic."