China repeats call for diplomatic solution in Iran

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BEIJING, Nov 1 (Reuters) China today urged a diplomatic solution to the West's stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme, recognising that the issue had become ''difficult''.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are expected to meet in London tomorrow to discuss a possible third round of UN sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt nuclear work that has both civilian and military uses.

China, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has generally opposed sanctions and instead counselled more talks, but the United States has been pushing for what one US official called more ''tough-minded diplomacy''.

''We support diplomatic negotiations to resolve the issue peacefully,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference. ''...The issue is now in a difficult situation.

''We support reconciliation between Iran and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and we also support consultations between Iran and the EU3 (France, Germany and Britain) so as to move in the direction of a peaceful solution.'' Last month, Washington announced new US sanctions on Iran, prompting China to say that it was opposed to applying sanctions ''too rashly in international relations''.

Iran warned the United States yesterday it would find itself in a ''quagmire deeper than Iraq'' if it attacked the country.

REUTERS PD SSC1401

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