ASTANA, May 5 (Reuters) US Vice President Dick Cheney, visiting Kazakhstan, urged Iran today to take a lesson from the ex-Soviet Central Asian state and renounce nuclear arms to resolve a stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Kazakhstan gave up the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union shortly after independence in 1991, a move that still wins the vast but sparsely populated state praise in the West 15 years on.
Iran, like Kazakhstan, says it wants to develop a civilian nuclear programme but the West suspects Tehran is secretly seeking to acquire nuclear bombs.
''I think that the example provided by Kazakhstan some years ago when it achieved independence of giving up the inventory of nuclear weapons deployed in Kazakhstan was an outstanding example of what the Iranians might want to consider,'' Cheney said after talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
France, Britain and Germany, with US backing, have drafted a UN resolution demanding Iran halt its nuclear fuel programme which they fear is aimed not only at power stations but also at arms. Tehran says its activities are legal and peaceful.
Cheney, speaking to reporters in the Kazakh capital Astana, said Washington was working with others to find a diplomatic solution ''that will avoid a confrontation on this issue''.
''We think that we need to find a way diplomatically to avoid the kind of problems that would result from an Iran with nuclear weapons,'' he said.
REUTERS SI BD2220