China, Iran have similar views on issue, Iran nuclear negotiator says

China on Thursday warned that sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program could complicate the dispute and urged increased diplomatic efforts as Tehran's top nuclear negotiator underscored the country's close ties with Beijing. "You've heard before that China is against referring the matter to the (U.N.) Security Council and against sanctions. We have the same idea," Iran's High Council of National Security Secretary Ali Larijani told reporters.

"We agreed that members of the (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) have a right to peaceful nuclear energy," he said. Larijani also warned of "consequences" should the world make the "mistake" of "condemning a country for peaceful research."

Larijani spent the day in Beijing meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan in an apparent bid by Tehran to draw closer to a key, and powerful, ally.

China is one of five, veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council and could block any punitive action against Tehran. On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan stressed that Beijing opposed "arbitrary sanctions, or the threat of sanctions."

"It only complicates matters," Kong said at a regular press briefing. China also sits on the board of governors, along with Russia and India, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is holding an emergency meeting on the issue on Feb. 2.

The U.S. and several European countries want China and other nations to vote on whether to refer Iran to the Security Council during the IAEA meeting. Iran, however, has been trying to undermine their efforts by rallying support among its allies, including China.

"It would be a disgrace to condemn with sanctions a country for peaceful research. Surely the world would not accept such an action," Larijani said.

"But if this kind of mistake happens, the consequences of the wrong actions will return back to those who put Iran under pressure." In their meeting Thursday, Tang told Larijani that China is concerned about possible escalation of the situation and urged all parties to "step up diplomatic efforts to create favorable conditions for the resumption of talks," China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said a Russian proposal to allow Iran to enrich its uranium in Russia, a plan presented earlier this week when Larijani was in Moscow, "could be helpful to break the stalemate."

China's hesitation over the Security Council referral has prompted suggestions that Beijing wants to avoid angering Iran, a major oil source for its energy-hungry economy.

The West fears that Iran's uranium enrichment program is a precursor to making nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its intentions are peaceful and that it wants only civilian nuclear energy.

On Wednesday, Larijani met with Russian Security Council chief Igor Ivanov in Moscow. He later told reporters that Tehran welcomes Moscow's offer to have Iran's uranium enriched in Russia. But, he said, the proposal needs more work and threatened to renew full-scale uranium enrichment if his country is referred to the U.N. Security Council, reports the AP. I.L.

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