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China Questions Wisdom of Referring Iran to Security Council

The U.N. Security Council appears split over whether to take up Iran's lack of cooperation with the international nuclear agency. Veto-wielding member China has suggested that a Security Council referral could make matters worse.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Friday that referring Iran to the Security Council might toughen Tehran's position on its nuclear program.

"Our concern is that to refer it to the Council, we want a solution, but to refer it might complicate the issue," said Wang Guangya. "This is our concern. This might make the position of some parties more tough on this issue."

Leading European nations joined the United States Thursday in calling for the matter to be referred to the Security Council. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain said the referral was needed because efforts to negotiate with the Tehran government had failed.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador, Emir Jones-Parry, said Friday the so-called EU-3 intends to push the referral process with the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

"Our first step will be a series of contacts with colleagues leading to meeting of the governing board in Vienna," said Emir Jones-Parry. "The step we'd like from Iranians is that it should begin to comply with what the governing board has asked it to do."

A day earlier, Secretary-General Kofi Annan seemed to hold open the possibility of another diplomatic approach to Iran. After a 40-minute phone conversation with Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, Mr. Annan said Tehran's leaders were still interested in "serious and constructive" negotiations.

But when asked by VOA Friday for further details, Mr. Annan instead emphasized Iran's obligation to comply with the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

"I think, on the Iranian issue, it's always that they should respect the obligations of the [International] Atomic [Energy] Agency and remain within the rules of the NPT," said Kofi Annan. "They may insist on their rights, but they have to also honor all their obligations."

Mr. Annan said earlier he still hopes for a settlement of the nuclear dispute so it would not reach the Security Council.

Permanent Council member Russia Friday also renewed its call for Iran to resume its moratorium on nuclear activities.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted as saying all efforts must be made to ensure a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis. In the meantime, he said, Russia is considering proposals for a meeting of the IAEA to determine whether to place the matter on the Security Council agenda.