BEIJING (Reuters) -China said on Tuesday the Iranian nuclear standoff could still be defused through negotiations without a showdown in the United Nations, and urged countries to intensify efforts for a diplomatic compromise.
China voted for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution on Iran because it believed that decision would encourage further talks.
“The Iranian nuclear issue should be appropriately resolved through diplomatic negotiations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told reporters in Beijing.
“We still hope that this kind of resolution will help promote diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue within the framework of the IAEA.”
The IAEA decision made on February 4 calls for its chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report to it by March 6 on Iran’s response to demands that it suspend nuclear enrichment activities and improve cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
ElBaradei may send his report to the Security Council after the IAEA meeting in early March.
But Kong said the resolution did not oblige the IAEA to refer Iran to the Council, and he urged all the sides to intensify diplomatic efforts and called for Iran to abide by the resolution.
“There is still room to resolve the issue through diplomatic negotiations,” he said.
Before the IAEA vote, China repeatedly deflected calls from Western countries to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, instead urging Iran to settle the standoff through talks with Britain, France and Germany, known as the EU-3.
On Monday, China’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, also called for negotiated settlement between Iran and the European countries.
“China prefers to have the EU-3 continue the negotiations with Iranian’s to find a long-term solution on this issue,” he told reporters in New York, according to the Xinhua news agency.
China is one of five members of the U.N. Security Council, and so can veto proposals for U.N action against Iran. The other members are the United States, Britain, France and Russia.
Iran said in January it would resume nuclear enrichment, but said the material was for peaceful power.
But the United States and European Union have said Iran’s nuclear program appears pitched toward eventually making weapons, and they have proposed U.N. sanctions to deter Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran responded defiantly to the IAEA resolution, telling it to remove some monitoring equipment from its nuclear facilities on Monday.
Iran said it would limit future cooperation with nuclear inspectors to basic obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In late January, China supported a Russian compromise plan to allow Iran to pursue nuclear power, but only so long as enrichment activities took place on Russian soil, blocking any efforts to divert the nuclear fuel to weapons development.
On Monday, Kong said China stood by the Russian proposal. “The key is for each side to have a constructive attitude,” he said.