Israel, China stick to positions on Iran sanctions

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BEIJING, Oct 30 (Reuters) China and Israel today emerged from talks on Iran's nuclear future with each side sticking to divergent positions on whether additional UN sanctions would help defuse the standoff.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Beijing seeking to persuade China to back tougher economic restrictions on Tehran unless it curtails nuclear activities that Western powers say are aimed at making nuclear weapons.

''We believe that there's a need to enhance the sanctions in order to stop Iran,'' Livni told a news conference after meetings with senior Chinese officials.

''We believe that there is a need for more sanctions in the United Nations Security Council''.

She said Iran was abusing other powers' willingness to negotiate and would only rein in its nuclear activities under stiffer sanctions.

Responding to Livni's message, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman underscored his country's stance that a negotiated settlement was still viable.

''We believe that a peaceful resolution of the Iran issue through negotiation is the best choice,'' spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.

''China has always maintained that in international relations sanctions should not be rashly applied.'' The exchange of views suggested that Beijing -- along with Russia -- remains wary of a proposed fresh round of UN sanctions that Israel, Washington and other Western powers want considered. China's permanent seat on the UN Security Council gives it the power to veto such moves.

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed in August on a timetable to answer outstanding questions about the country's atomic activities, prompting world powers to postpone a third round of United Nations sanctions until at least November.

But US officials have said there was no sign that Iran was going to suspend uranium enrichment, and Washington slapped new unilateral sanctions on Tehran last week. Increasingly angry rhetoric between the two sides has also fed speculation of a US military strike.

Iran has shrugged off two earlier rounds of sanctions, which China backed, and Livni has said tougher measures were needed to raise domestic pressure on the Iranian government to make nuclear concessions.

Iran is China's third biggest supplier of imported crude oil, behind Angola and Saudi Arabia.

''We should avoid making the problem more complicated,'' spokesman Liu said.

REUTERS SG HT1814

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