BEIJING,(Reuters) – China said on Thursday it welcomed talks between Iran and Russia next week on plans to defuse the crisis over Tehran’s atomic programme, but refused to say whether it would join the meeting.
“We hope that this Russian invitation to Iran to hold talks on the 16th about participating in an international uranium enrichment centre will help break, or encourage a break, in the current stalemate over the Iranian nuclear issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular news conference.
The deputy head of Iran’s National Security Council would lead Tehran’s delegation to the talks in Moscow next week, Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reported earlier.
The meeting will discuss a Kremlin proposal to process fuel for Iran’s nuclear stations on Russian soil, offering Tehran a way to pursue atomic power but restricting any moves to divert radioactive fuel to weapons.
Asked about Russian reports that China — a country with close ties to both Moscow and Tehran — may also attend, Kong said China had not received a formal invitation and he refused to say how China would respond if asked.
But he said China still hoped the nuclear standoff could be solved through “peaceful negotiation”.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity, but the United States and European countries have said Iran is seeking the ability to make atomic weapons.
The United Nations’ atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, voted on Saturday for its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, to report by March 6 on Iran’s response to demands that it suspend nuclear enrichment activities and improve cooperation with nuclear inspectors.
The agency may then consider moves to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
China is one of five permanent members of the Security Council that wields veto power over any decisions.
Beijing has repeatedly discouraged, but not flatly opposed, proposals from Washington and the European Union to refer Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
“We support all efforts beneficial to strengthening international nuclear non-proliferation mechanisms, and we hope the international community will reach unanimity on the relevant proposals”, Kong said.