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US Defense Secretary Warns China of Threat from Iran

The United States Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, has urged China to take firm action against Iran's nuclear program, saying China stands to lose from any instability in the Middle East. The U.S. is pushing for new sanctions against Iran, but China has been reluctant to support the move. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Tuesday an Iran that acts as a destabilizing force is not in anyone's interest, including China's.

Gates said he raised the issue in talks here Monday with officials of China, which buys much of its oil with Iran.

Iran has repeatedly ignored demands it stop its program to make nuclear fuel, which western nations fear will be used to produce nuclear weapons. The U.S. has been pushing for a third round of economic sanctions against Tehran.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Tuesday that Beijing also opposes a nuclear-armed Iran, but he repeated China's standard position, that dialogue is the best way to resolve the conflict.

Liu says China and the U.S. have an identical objective concerning the Iranian nuclear issue. He says both nations believe Iran should not own nuclear weapons, and both believe in safeguarding the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China, a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, has twice supported U.N. sanctions against Iran. But Beijing has ruled out any immediate further sanctions.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, but Washington and some European nations believe Tehran's true intention is to pursue nuclear weapons.

Secretary Gates met Tuesday with China's President Hu Jintao before leaving for South Korea. He said Iran was not discussed, but the two men did talk at length about improving military relations, and maintaining peace in the Taiwan Straits.