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. Gates calls on China to back Iran sanctions
BEIJING, Nov 5 (AFP) Nov 05, 2007
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged China on Monday to support tougher economic sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran came up in Gates's talks here with Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, who offered no comment on the sanctions call.

"We agreed that it is important to pursue efforts to persuade the Iranian government to change their behaviour and their policy peacefully through diplomatic means," Gates said after meeting Cao.

"And I would say I added the importance of continuing an increased economic pressure as a way of persuading the Iranian government to make different choices," he said.

China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, have opposed further punitive action against Iran over its uranium enrichment programme.

The United States expressed disappointment with their position Friday following a meeting in London of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany.

The United States believes the enrichment programme is part of a drive to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

Iran has already been the target of two sets of UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, and the United States and its Western allies are pushing for a third package that could hit the wider economy.

Beijing last week reiterated its opposition to sanctions on Iran, with which resource-hungry China has significant energy ties.

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