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. Rice and China FM hold phone talks over Iran
BEIJING, June 13 (AFP) Jun 13, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with China's Foreign Minister late Tuesday over the Iranian nuclear crisis, the foreign minister said.

The telephone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing came after China refused to join with other big powers in threatening sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

"They exchanged views on enhancing relations between China and the United States and international issues of common concern," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu without giving details.

"China will continue to play a constructive role to help peacefully solve the Iran nuclear issue through negotiations," she said in a statement on the ministry's website.

China and Russia -- both Iranian allies and trading partners -- had joined Britain, France, Germany and the United States on June 1 in urging Iran to halt enrichment and join talks guaranteeing it will not make nuclear arms.

The offer threatened UN Security Council action, including sanctions, if Iran failed to comply.

A Western diplomat said the United States had been seeking a new statement from the six world powers at this week's International Atomic Energy Agency talks in Vienna setting out both possible benefits and sanctions for Iran.

But Russia and China were reluctant to sign up. And non-aligned nations have prepared a statement reaffirming Tehran's right to enrich uranium.

"China appreciates Iran's attitude to carefully study the new proposals, and hopes to see a positive response from Iran," said the foreign ministry's Jiang.

The telephone conversation comes as China this week hosts leaders from Russia and Central Asian states for a regional club, with the added presence of Iran's president expected to draw global attention.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was founded 10 years ago as part of efforts to fight terrorism, religious extremism and separatism in the region.

The organization's participation of Iran has drawn fire from the United States, which remains wary about China and Russia's cozy relationship with Tehran.

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