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. China urges Iran, Europe to resume nuclear talks
BEIJING, Jan 18 (AFP) Jan 18, 2008
China has urged Iran to resume negotiations with the international community in a fresh attempt to end their long-running standoff over its nuclear programme, state press reported Friday.

Beijing's call came with Washington's second top diplomat and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator both in China to lobby for support ahead of a key meeting next week on possible sanctions against the Islamic regime.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met with Saeed Jalili, who is regarded as more hardline than his predecessor whom he replaced in October, and who is a close ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"The Iranian nuclear issue is now at a crucial moment," Yang told Jalili in a meeting late Thursday, according to remarks posted by the foreign ministry.

"China hopes all concerned parties, including Iran, make joint efforts to resume negotiations as soon as possible in a bid to promote the comprehensive and proper settlement of this issue."

Jalili, who arrived here Thursday, is thought to be seeking Beijing's help to ward off another UN Security Council resolution against Tehran.

Yang met with Jalili one day after separate talks with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who is seeking Chinese support for a new resolution on Iran that would contain binding sanctions.

Negroponte said he would continue that push during twice-yearly high-level bilateral talks being held Friday in southwestern China's Guizhou city, with Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany are to meet in Berlin to discuss a possible new round of sanctions.

The European Union troika of Britain, France and Germany have been leading efforts to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment to prove that it is not trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran denies Western charges that it is seeking nuclear arms, insisting its programme is peaceful and aimed at providing civilian energy.

However, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was "disappointed" after five hours of talks with Jalili in London in late November, and the two have not met since.

Last week, after the head of the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Tehran, Iran agreed to clear up all outstanding issues about its programme within four weeks.

Despite a four-year probe, the IAEA has so far been unable to determine if the programme is peaceful.

Negroponte told reporters Thursday that UN-backed sanctions were necessary as Iran had refused to suspend uranium enrichment, in line with an existing UN resolution.

China, which has growing energy ties with Tehran, routinely calls for more further talks rather than aggressive UN action against Iran.

Its foreign ministry has urged Tehran to comply with the existing Security Council resolution but has not revealed whether it will support a new one.

In comments reported by Iran's state news agency IRNA, Jalili poured cold water on the idea of a new resolution.

He said Iran's "rational behaviour and international developments will not allow anyone to do such things," adding that Tehran expected continued Chinese support.

"Our Chinese friends have so far replied to Iran's 'goodwill' and we expect that they will continue these good relations."

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