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. Rice consults world powers on Iran nuclear row
WASHINGTON, June 13 (AFP) Jun 14, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday consulted world powers on Iran's disputed nuclear program, the State Department said.

Rice telephoned her Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, confirming an announcement by the Chinese foreign affairs ministry.

The top US diplomat was "just touching base on the issue of Iran.

"She's had a few conversations with some of her foreign minister colleagues, just to touch base on where we stand," the spokesman said.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rice had spoken late Monday with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and on Tuesday with here counterparts Margaret Beckett of Britain and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany.

"She is going to have some other talks" during the day, he said, citing Russia's chief diplomat, Sergei Lavrov.

Asked about the essence of her conversation with Aso, the State Department official said the two chief diplomats had discussed "what role Japan might play" with respect to Iran.

Japan has not directly participated in the discussions on Iran of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- as well as Germany.

Germany has partnered with Britain and France in the so-called EU-3 which has spearheaded negotiations with Iran.

In announcing the telephone conversation between Li and Rice, the Chinese foreign ministry said that "China will continue to play a constructive role to help peacefully solve the Iran nuclear issue through negotiations."

The phone discussion came after China refused to join with other big powers in threatening sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

The world powers are awaiting a response from Iran on their proposal to offer trade and other incentives in exchange for Tehran's suspension of uranium enrichment activities.

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 uranium enrichment and join talks guaranteeing it will not make nuclear arms.

Iran insists its nuclear program is purely civilian, and rejects accusations it is covertly building atomic weapons.

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