May 16, 2006

Iran in focus as China, Russia ministers meet

BEIJING (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Russia and
China met in Beijing on Tuesday where how to resolve the
standoff over Iran's nuclear program is likely to be high on
the agenda.

Both hold veto power on the U.N. Security Council and have
resisted efforts by Western powers to pass a resolution that
would oblige Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, to
halt uranium enrichment work or face possible sanctions.

"We are very happy today to welcome our old friend,"
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told his counterpart
Sergei Lavrov at the opening of their meeting.

Lavrov was expected to hold a news conference at 0745 GMT.

He said the two would also make preparations for a meeting
between their heads of state at a summit of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO) in mid-June.

At a meeting on Monday of foreign ministers from the SCO,
which groups the former Soviet Central Asian states of
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with China
and Russia, the group urged negotiations to resolve the Iran

Iran has said it would reject any demands to stop its
nuclear research, which the West fears is aimed at producing
weapons. Tehran says the program is purely to make electricity.

Russia and China, as well as the EU3 -- Britain, France and
Germany -- are to unveil a package of inducements and penalties
for Iran depending on whether it cooperations or resists
Western calls for it to halt uranium enrichment.

On Monday, the European Union said it was ready to share
the most sophisticated civilian nuclear technology with Iran if
it stopped uranium enrichment, but the initiative seemed likely
to be rejected by Tehran.