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. China downplays new Iran sanctions
BEIJING, Feb 27 (AFP) Feb 27, 2007
China refused to say Tuesday if it would back new sanctions against Iran as part of multinational efforts to halt Tehran's nuclear programme, saying only the dispute should be resolved peacefully.

"Our position has been consistent in that we advocate a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiation and peaceful means," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters when asked if China would support sanctions.

"Sanctions are not our ultimate purpose," Qin added.

The comments came a day after China took part in six-nation talks in London on the next steps to be taken against Iran, after it ignored a United Nations deadline to freeze uranium enrichment.

The meeting in London between envoys from the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany discussed possible tougher sanctions than ones imposed last year, the governments involved have said.

China, which has significant energy interests in Iran, voted in favour of the previous sanctions measure, but has consistently called for further dialogue to resolve the dispute.

"No matter what measures are taken at the (UN) Security Council, those actions should be conducive to the proper solution of the nuclear issue through diplomatic means and negotiation," Qin said.

The US and many of its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charge and asserts it has a right to a peaceful nuclear energy program.

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