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China Backs Russia Plan on Iran Uranium Enrichment

  • Luis Ramirez

China is backing a proposal to allow Iran to enrich uranium on Russian territory - a compromise meant to defuse a dispute with Western nations over Iran's recent moves to restart its nuclear program. Iran's top nuclear negotiator has finished a day of talks in Beijing.

Iranian National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani came from Russia to the Chinese capital for a daylong visit to get China's support in its battle against the United States and others who oppose Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Russia has proposed a compromise: that Iran enrich uranium in facilities in Russia, where the work can be closely monitored.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says China welcomes Moscow's proposal.

"We think the Russian proposal is a pretty good attempt to break this stalemate," he said. "We also hope all sides can step up their exertion of wisdom to put forward new suggestions in order to create the conditions to revive negotiations."

Larijani emerged from meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other officials saying Iran is willing to negotiate.

The Iranian official told reporters the Russian suggestion could be fruitful. But he said more discussions on the proposal are necessary.

The United States, France, Britain and Germany have called for Iran's nuclear activity to be taken before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. China and Russia, as permanent members, have the power to veto sanctions.

Iran has raised concerns among Western nations since January 10, when it removed seals that the International Atomic Energy Agency had installed on some of its nuclear equipment. The United States and its European allies fear that restarting the nuclear program may allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Larijani's stop in China came a day after Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick visited and warned Beijing that allowing Tehran to develop nuclear weapons could threaten oil supplies from the Middle East, particularly from Iran, which accounts for about 12 percent of China's oil imports.

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