China says Iran nuclear issue at "crucial stage"

The Iran nuclear crisis is at a crucial stage and restraint is needed to resolve the issue, a Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday as a deadline approached for Tehran to stop enriching uranium.

"We hope the relevant parties can keep calm and exercise restraint so as to avoid moves that would further escalate the situation," ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

The situation was "indeed at a crucial stage," he said at a regular briefing.

Iran faces a Friday deadline to meet the U.N. Security Council's demand that it suspend enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or material for nuclear warheads.

Qin said the problem can still be "resolved through dialogue and diplomatic means, which is the correct choice for all parties concerned",  a position that has been reiterated many times by China and Russia, Iran's longtime allies and veto-wielding council members.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, is scheduled to report to the IAEA board and the Security Council on Friday on Iran's implementation of its demands.

The United States, France and Britain say if Iran does not comply, they will seek to make the demand compulsory, even in face of opposition from Russia and China.

The three Western nations have also warned that noncompliance could lead to sanctions, reports the AP.


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