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Dispute Over Iran's Nuclear Programs Should be Solved Prudently, Says China - 2003-06-19

China says the dispute over Iran's nuclear programs should be solved in a "pragmatic and prudent" fashion. The comments follow President Bush's declaration that the world "will not tolerate" a nuclear-armed Iran.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says China opposes the spread of nuclear weapons and supports efforts to strengthen the treaty intended to block the spread of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Liu says more information is needed to "clarify" allegations that Iran has not complied with UN nuclear safeguards.

Mr. Liu spoke as the United States and Iran were locked in debate before the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. At issue is whether Iran has refused to disclose promised information on its nuclear materials and capabilities.

Iran denies it wants nuclear weapons and says its nuclear power plants produce electricity, not bombs.

The United States wants the IAEA to demand tougher, more intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, but news reports say the agency is not likely to vote to force these inspections.

Under the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, UN experts can inspect nuclear facilities of signatories. A new part of the treaty, called the "additional protocol" would allow more intrusive inspections on short notice.

China says it has signed this "additional protocol" and urges other nations, including Iran, to do the same.

China's view of the nuclear weapons issue is important because the IAEA could refer the dispute to the United Nations Security Council, which may impose sanctions on Iran if it does not comply with UN mandates. Beijing has veto power in the Security Council.