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. China urges 'serious response' from Iran to nuclear resolution
BEIJING, Jan 5 (AFP) Jan 05, 2007
China Friday told Iran to deliver a "serious response" to a United Nations resolution on its nuclear program, as a top Tehran envoy vowed to adhere to a key non-proliferation pact.

Chinese President Hu Jintao made the comments to top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani at a meeting this week during his two-day visit to China.

"The resolution reflects the shared concerns of the international community over the Iranian nuclear issue," Chinese President Hu Jintao told Larijani.

"We hope Iran can make a serious response to the resolution," Hu was quoted as saying by state television.

China last month voted in favor of a United Nations resolution that imposes sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but Beijing sought to water down the measure and has said it prefers negotiations instead of sanctions.

The sanctions take aim at Iranian efforts to enrich uranium, which the United States and others fear could be used to make a nuclear weapon.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week said Iran will step up its atomic program in defiance of the resolution.

In his meeting with Larijani, Hu reiterated a Chinese call for more talks on the festering Iranian issue, state television reported.

"The international community should continue its diplomatic efforts for a return to negotiations as soon as possible, and seek a lasting, overall and appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue," Hu was quoted as saying.

Earlier Larijani said the Islamic republic would stick to the "principles" of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

"Iran will still honor the principles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and continue to seek a just and reasonable solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through talks," Larijani was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

This contradicted remarks by an Iranian government spokesman who said on Tuesday the nation could drop out of the treaty if Western pressure increased over the nuclear issue.

"It is not part of our national doctrine to have nuclear weapons," Larijani told a briefing in Beijing after meeting with Hu.

"Iran pursues the peaceful use of nuclear energy. However, if we are threatened, that may change."

Signatories to the treaty pledge to restrict the possession of nuclear weapons.

Despite its vote for the UN resolution last month, China has major energy interests in Iran and supports Tehran's right to a nuclear energy program.

"Countries who have a long-term strategic relationship won't change their relationship because of tactical issues," Larijani told the briefing when asked about China's vote.

"Our relationship is long-term and long-lasting."

Larijani delivered a message from Ahmadinejad to Hu, the nuclear envoy told the briefing. He gave no details about what was in the letter.

China is significantly raising its profile in the Middle East, with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert due to visit Beijing next week.

"China's policy is consistent. We wish to preserve the international non-proliferation system and preserve peace and stability in the Middle East," Hu told Larijani, according to the television report.

The report did not detail what Larijani told Hu regarding Iran's nuclear program.

China, increasingly looking abroad to meet its growing energy needs, has aggressively pursued oil and gas deals in Iran.

Last month China's top energy firm, PetroChina, struck a mammoth deal worth 16 billion dollars for the purchase of Iranian liquefied natural gas.

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